Communication skills training and the conceptual structure of empathy among medical students

Daisuke Son, Ikuo Shimizu, Hirono Ishikawa, Muneyoshi Aomatsu, Jimmie Leppink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Medical and healthcare professionals' empathy for patients is crucially important for patient care. Some studies have suggested that a significant decline in empathy occurs during clinical training years in medical school as documented by self-assessed empathy scales. Moreover, a recent study provided qualitative evidence that communication skills training in an examination context, such as in an objective structured clinical examination, might stimulate perspective taking but inhibit the development of compassionate care. Therefore, the current study examined how perspective taking and compassionate care relate to medical students' willingness to show empathic behaviour and how these relations may change with communication skills training.

A total of 295 fourth-year Japanese medical students from three universities completed the Jefferson Empathy Scale and a newly developed set of items on willingness to show empathic behaviour twice after communication skills training, pertaining to post-training and retrospectively for pre-training.

The findings indicate that students' willingness to show empathic behaviour is much more correlated with perspective taking than with compassionate care. Qualitative descriptive analysis of open-ended question responses revealed a difficulty of feeling compassion despite showing empathic behaviour.

These findings shed light on the conceptual structure of empathy among medical students and generate a number of hypotheses for future intervention and longitudinal studies on the relation between communication skills training and empathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-271
Number of pages8
JournalPerspectives on Medical Education
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

Keywords

  • Communication skills training
  • Jefferson Scale of Empathy
  • Medical students
  • Objective structured clinical examination
  • Empathic behaviour
  • PHYSICIAN EMPATHY
  • JEFFERSON SCALE
  • COGNITIVE LOAD
  • SOCIAL-PSYCHOLOGY
  • PSYCHOMETRIC DATA
  • SCHOOL
  • SPECIALTY
  • DECLINE
  • GENDER
  • BURNOUT

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