Background Problem / Question
Empathy is an important factor in
communication between healthcare
provider and patient.
Empathy improves patient satisfaction
and buffers healthcare provider
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
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
These results are consistent with
existing findings in Australian
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
Figure 1. Mean empathy scores across medical conditions
Figure 2. Mean empathy scores by gender
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
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.
Table 1. Mean Medical Condition Regard Scale scores for
each medical condition
Mental Health Emergency
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
A selection of quotes from
respondents, of interest to the research
question, were selected, and are
outlined below (Fig. 3)
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