Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Self-Compassion Predicts Intolerance of Uncertainty: A New Construct to Prepare Students for Clinical Uncertainty

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Learning Objectives: Managing uncertainty represents a significant source of stress for clinicians and trainees. Self-compassion is a strategy to help individuals cope with stress. The objective of this study is to determine the relationship between intolerance of uncertainty and self-compassion in medical students.

Background: For clinicians, higher scores on the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS) have been linked with failure to comply with evidence-based guidelines and higher likelihood of burnout. In contrast, higher self-compassion scores are correlated with decreased stress and burnout. A negative correlation between self-compassion and intolerance of uncertainty has been demonstrated in college students and general population. This relationship has not been examined in medical students and provides a possible curricular aim for addressing stress as they transition to clinical learning environments during clerkships.

Objectives: The goal of our study is to determine if there is a correlation between intolerance of uncertainty and self-compassion in medical students.

Methods: Third-year medical students (n=273) completed the IUS short version and the Self-Compassion Short Form (SCSF) through an online survey. Data was de-identified and a linear regression analysis was conducted to predict IUS based on SCSF. Pearson correlation was also calculated.

Results: Response rate was 95% (259/273). IUS and SCSF scores were treated as continuous variables and analyzed parametrically. Mean scores for IUS and SCSF in medical students did not differ from previously reported means (p=0.14 and p=0.43 respectively). A significant regression equation was found (F(1,256) = 48.372, p<0.0001) with an R2 of 0.159. Pearson correlation was calculated at r = 0.399 (moderate effect size).

Conclusion: A significant negative correlation was found between intolerance of uncertainty and self-compassion (p<0.0001). While findings suggest that self-compassion predicts intolerance of uncertainty, future studies should examine its implications on the role of curriculum in preparing learners for clinical uncertainty.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View