Measurement of empathy among Japanese medical students: psychometrics and score differences by gender and level of medical education.

Center for Developing Medical and Health Care Education, Okayama University Medical School, Okayama, Japan.
Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges (Impact Factor: 2.34). 10/2009; 84(9):1192-7. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181b180d4
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To examine psychometric properties of a Japanese translation of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE), and to study differences in empathy scores between men and women, and students in different years of medical school.
The student version of the JSPE was translated into Japanese using back-translation procedures and administered to 400 Japanese students from all six years at the Okayama University Medical School. Item-total score correlations were calculated. Factor analysis was used to examine the underlying components of the Japanese version of the JSPE. Cronbach coefficient alpha was calculated to assess the internal consistency aspect of reliability of the instrument. Finally, empathy scores for men and women were compared using t test, and score differences by year of medical school were examined using analysis of variance.
Factor analysis confirmed the three components of "perspective taking," "compassionate care," and "ability to stand in patient's shoes," which had emerged in American and Mexican medical students. Item-total score correlations were all positive and statistically significant. Cronbach coefficient alpha was .80. Women outscored men, and empathy scores increased as students progressed through medical school in this cross-sectional study.
Findings provide support for the construct validity and reliability of the Japanese translated version of the JSPE for medical students. Cultural characteristics and educational differences in Japanese medical schools that influence empathic behaviors are described, and implications for cross-cultural study of empathy are discussed.

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