A Cross-sectional Measurement of Medical Student Empathy

Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Journal of General Internal Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.42). 10/2007; 22(10):1434-8. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-007-0298-x
Source: PubMed


Empathy is important in the physician-patient relationship. Prior studies have suggested that physician empathy may decline with clinical training.
To measure and examine student empathy across medical school years.
A cross-sectional study of students at Boston University School of Medicine in 2006. Incoming students plus each class near the end of the academic year were surveyed.
The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy-Student Version (JSPE-S), a validated 20-item self-administered questionnaire with a total score ranging from 20 to 140. JSPE-S scores were controlled for potential confounders such as gender, age, anticipated financial debt upon graduation, and future career interest.
658 students participated in the study (81.4% of the school population). The first-year medical student class had the highest empathy scores (118.5), whereas the fourth-year class had the lowest empathy scores (106.6). Measured empathy differed between second- and third-year classes (118.2 vs 112.7, P < .001), corresponding to the first year of clinical training. Empathy appears to increase from the incoming to the first-year class (115.5 vs 118.5, P = .02). Students preferring people-oriented specialties had higher empathy scores than students preferring technology-oriented specialties (114.6 vs 111.4, P = .002). Female students were more likely than male students to choose people-oriented specialties (51.5 vs 26.9%, P < .001). Females had higher JSPE-S scores than males (116.5 vs 112.1, P < .001). Age and debt did not affect empathy scores.
Empathy scores of students in the preclinical years were higher than in the clinical years. Efforts are needed to determine whether differences in empathy scores among the classes are cohort effects or represent changes occurring in the course of medical education. Future research is needed to confirm whether clinical training impacts empathy negatively, and, if so, whether interventions can be designed to mitigate this impact.

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    • "In the present study, the mean empathy score of Korean medical students was higher for female than for male students, in keeping with other studies (Alcorta-Garza et al. 2005; Kliszcz et al. 2006; Chen et al. 2007; Fernández-Olano et al. 2008). In addition, higher empathy scores were found among lower grade level and post-baccalaureate students. "
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Background: Previous studies on empathy in Korean medical students were conducted on small populations or with different scales of measurement, resulting in low representativeness and generalisability of the findings. Aim: To evaluate empathy in Korean medical students throughout the country and to make suggestions to improve empathy. Methods: The Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) (Korean) was used, and the impact of sex, age, the medical school admission system, and grade of the respondents was investigated. Results: We analyzed 5343 questionnaires and found a mean empathy score of 105.9 ± 12.8. Females and post-baccalaureate students had higher scores as compared with their counterparts. There was a significant difference between the admission systems after controlling for gender. Students from higher grade levels had lower scores than those from the lower grade levels. Conclusions: The JSE score of Korean medical students was lower than that of students in Western countries. The difference of gender and medical school admission system should be considered, and capability to apply empathy to clinical practice should be focused upon in medical training.
    Medical Teacher 09/2014; DOI:10.3109/0142159X.2014.956058 · 1.68 Impact Factor
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    • "Despite these questions, empathy is certainly a complex construct that can be influenced by multiple factors (ie, clinical exposure and professional socialization), as highlighted by the frequently reported decrease in empathy during medical training.21,24–31 It is concerning that this negative trend continues after graduation and into professional practice.32–34 "
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    ABSTRACT: Background The literature indicates that medical practitioners experience declining empathy levels in clinical practice. This highlights the need to educate medical students about empathy as an attribute early in the academic curriculum. The objective of this study was to evaluate year one students’ self-reported empathy levels following a 2-hour empathy workshop at a large medical school in Malaysia. Methods Changes in empathy scores were examined using a paired repeated-measures t-test in this prospective before and after study. Results Analyzing the matched data, there was a statistically significant difference and moderate effect size between mean empathy scores before and 5 weeks after the workshop (112.08±10.67 versus 117.93±13.13, P<0.0001, d=0.48) using the Jefferson Scale Physician Empathy (Student Version). Conclusion The results of this observational study indicate improved mean self-reported empathy scores following an empathy workshop.
    05/2014; Advances in Medical Education and Practice 2014:5 149–156(5):149-156. DOI:10.2147/AMEP.S58094
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    • "Mean scores on the Jefferson Scale of Empathy were high among all first-year students in the present study, in the range reported among first-year medical students from other medical schools in the United States and in other countries (Chen et al., 2007; Hojat, 2007; Hojat et al., 2009b; Kataoka et al., 2009; Magalhães et al., 2011). The shared variance (25%) between the Groningen and Jefferson scales was not high enough to indicate that the two measures are redundant but at the same time it was not so low as to indicate that the two measures are independent. "
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    ABSTRACT: We administered the Jefferson Scale of Empathy and the Groningen Reflection Ability Scale to 61 of 64 entering medical students who self-selected a problem-based learning curricular track and to 163 of 198 who self-selected a lecture-based track (response rates of 95.3% and 82.3%, respectively, with no statistically significant differences in mean age or sex). Mean empathy and self-reflection ability scores were significantly higher among students who chose problem-based learning. Women scored higher than men in empathy. Women choosing problem-based learning had the highest empathy scores. Studies comparing students’ performance and achievements in different curricular tracks should consider differences in personal characteristics such as capability for empathy and self-reflection that may cause students to prefer one pedagogic approach over another and affect their outcomes.
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