Brief Report

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 200-202

First online:

Comparing a Self-Administered Measure of Empathy with Observed Behavior Among Medical Students

  • Daniel C. R. ChenAffiliated withSection of General Internal Medicine, Evans Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine Email author 
  • , M. Elaine PahilanAffiliated withOffice of Medical Education, Boston University School of Medicine
  • , Jay D. OrlanderAffiliated withSection of General Internal Medicine, Evans Department of Medicine, Boston University School of MedicineMedical Service, VA Boston Healthcare System

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Abstract

PURPOSE

Studies show that measures of physician and medical students’ empathy decline with clinical training. Presently, there are limited data relating self-reported measures to observed behavior. This study explores a self-reported measure and observed empathy in medical students.

METHOD

Students in the Class of 2009, at a university-based medical school, were surveyed at the end of their 2nd and 3rd year. Students completed the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy-Student Version (JSPE-S), a self-administered scale, and were evaluated for demonstrated empathic behavior during Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs).

RESULTS

97.6% and 98.1% of eligible students participated in their 2nd and 3rd year, respectively. The overall correlation between the JSPE-S and OSCE empathy scores was 0.22, p < 0.0001. Students had higher self-reported JSPE-S scores in their 2nd year compared to their 3rd year (118.63 vs. 116.08, p < 0.0001), but had lower observed empathy scores (3.96 vs. 4.15, p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS

Empathy measured by a self-administered scale decreased, whereas observed empathy increased among medical students with more medical training.

KEY WORDS

empathy JSPE OSCE