PosterPDF Available

Empathy levels among Canadian paramedic students.

Authors:

Abstract

Background Empathy is an important factor in communication between healthcare provider and patient. Previous studies have shown that empathy benefits patient care in multiple ways. Empathy allows a space of decreased vulnerability and as a result, builds trust in healthcare relationships, fosters open communication that leads to improved patient care, improves patient satisfaction and buffers healthcare provider burnout. Aim This study aimed to determine the empathy levels displayed by paramedic students to patients with various medical conditions, and to compare these findings to previously published studies. We hypothesize that across certain medical conditions, patients are not regarded with the same levels of empathy. This unequal approach to patients can lead to an environment in which the patient does not feel comfortable being honest with the healthcare provider Methods This study employed a cross sectional design of a convenience sample of first and second year paramedic students in a community college program in Ontario, Canada. The Medical Condition Regard Scale (MCRS) was used to measure empathy levels in these students across five medical conditions: physical disability, intellectual disability, suicide attempt, mental health emergency, and substance abuse. Results A total of 43 students participated in the study; 27 males and 15 females (1 unknown). Males demonstrated a mean empathy level of 232.44 while females demonstrated a mean of 266.4. Across the five medical conditions, substance abuse had the lowest mean empathy score (42.88), followed by mental health emergency (49.58), suicide attempt (49.47), intellectual disability (50.42) and physical disability (53.0). Conclusion Results from this study suggest that paramedic students demonstrated the lowest levels of empathy towards patients suffering from substance abuse issues, and the highest levels of empathy towards patients with a physical disability. Male paramedic students are less empathetic than their female peers, and second year paramedic students are less empathetic than their first year counterparts. These results echo existing findings in Australian paramedic students.
Background Problem / Question
Empathy is an important factor in
communication between healthcare
provider and patient.
Empathy improves patient satisfaction
and buffers healthcare provider
burnout
Previous studies have shown that
empathy can improve patient care.
Previous studies in Australian
paramedic students have
demonstrated that empathy scores are
low among paramedic students,
scores decrease as one progresses
through paramedic education, and
empathy scores vary significantly for
certain medical conditions.
This study aimed to determine the
empathy levels displayed by Canadian
paramedic students towards patients
with various medical conditions.
We hypothesized that across certain
medical conditions, patients are not
regarded with the same levels of
empathy.
43 students participated in the study; 27
males and 15 females (1 unknown).
Substance abuse had the lowest mean
empathy score (42.88,SD±10.62)
(Table 1. & Fig. 1)
Physical disability had the highest mean
empathy score (53.0, SD±7.22)
Females demonstrated a higher mean
empathy score of 266.40 (SD±29.99)
(Fig. 2) and higher mean scores across
four of the five medical conditions.
First years had a higher mean score
compared to second years.
There were no significant differences in
scores between age groups.
Paramedic students demonstrated
varying levels of empathy toward
certain medical conditions.
Male students are less empathetic
than their female peers, and second
year students are less empathetic than
first years.
These results are consistent with
existing findings in Australian
paramedic students.
Our results suggest that paramedic
students may benefit from focused
empathy education and training, as
self-reported by survey respondents.
Students have mixed ideas (Figure 3)
on the empathy training required in
order to understand and improve
empathy towards patients, but they do
identify a definite need.
Integration of empathy education into
the paramedic curriculum could prove
beneficial, although the exact type of
education, duration, delivery method
and curriculum warrants further
research.
Figure 1. Mean empathy scores across medical conditions
Figure 2. Mean empathy scores by gender
Objective
This was a cross-sectional survey study
of a convenience sample of first and
second year paramedic students at
Fanshawe College, Ontario, Canada.
Ethics approval was received from
Fanshawe College REB.
The Medical Condition Regard Scale
(MCRS) was used to measure empathy
levels across five medical conditions:
physical disability, intellectual disability,
suicide attempt, mental health
emergency, and substance abuse.
Free-text fields allowed respondents to
share their views on empathy
Methods
Empathy levels among Canadian paramedic students
Lucy Kus BSc(Hons.), Cassidy Gosling BSc(Hons.), Taylor Wilson, Alan M. Batt MSc PhD(c)
Paramedic Programs, Fanshawe College, Ontario, Canada.
Conclusion
Results
Table 1. Mean Medical Condition Regard Scale scores for
each medical condition
Medical condition
Mean
SD
Intellectual Disability
50.42
8.73
Physical Disability
53.00
7.22
Suicide Attempt
49.47
7.75
Substance Abuse
42.88
10.62
Mental Health Emergency
49.58
10.02
A total of 37 respondents (86%)
indicated that more empathy training
was required in the program.
Suggestions to improve empathy
training included increasing high-fidelity
simulation, inviting guest speakers, and
undertaking more mental health service
placements.
A selection of quotes from
respondents, of interest to the research
question, were selected, and are
outlined below (Fig. 3)
“…include holistic/biopsychosocial
views of health…”
“…LTC [long-term care] placements
only made people feel less empathy
for the elderly patients…”
“…you can't teach empathy…”
Figure 3. Selected free-texts responses from
respondents (aggregated)
Results (cont.)
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.