Empathy and its Correlates among Undergraduate Medical Students at a Medical College in India
Introduction: Empathy is a highly desirable professional trait, since empathic communication skills promote patient satisfaction,
establish trust, reduce anxiety, increase adherence to treatment regimens, improve health outcomes, as well as decreasing the
likelihood of malpractice suits. It is beneficial to the physician as well, cognitively defined empathy can lead to personal growth,
career satisfaction resulting from the optimal clinical outcomes.
Purpose: The purpose of the study was to assess empathy level of medical students and its correlates.
Methodology: A cross-sectional observational study was conducted among undergraduate medical students of Veer Chandra
Singh Garhwali Government Institute of Medical Science and Research, Srinagar, Uttarakhand, with a survey tool employing
Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSE-S). JSE-S comprising certain details such as age, gender, year of medical school,
specialty of choice, and an inventory of 20 questions half of which are negatively phrased. The students recorded their response
on a scale of 1 of the 7, provided on a Likert scale in response to each item (1 = strongly disagree and 7 = strongly agree).
Scale is reversed (that is, 1 = strongly agree and 7 = strongly disagree) for the negatively phrased items.
Results: The mean empathy score among males was 103.4 (standard deviation [SD] – 17.33), and among females, it was
109.4 (SD – 15.37). In our study, this difference was found to statistically significant. A majority of students reported having
made the decision to enter the medical profession on their own accord, n = 355 (68.5%). For the rest, it was either their family
member’s decision or a combined decision, n = 66, 12.7% and n = 97, 18.7%, respectively. A majority of students, n = 360,
69.5%, preferred to join a medical specialty involving direct patient contact.
Conclusion: The empathy score varied with gender, with a higher mean score for females. It was also more for those satisfied
with their career choice compared to those who were unsatisfied. Semester wise, there was no increasing or decreasing pattern
of scores and was found to be variable. An impetus for empathy was provided with the introduction of foundation course for
medical students where life skills education is being imparted.
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