Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 7, pp 559–564 | Cite as

Relationship between increased personal well-being and enhanced empathy among

Internal medicine residents
  • Tait D. Shanafelt
  • Colin West
  • Xinghua Zhao
  • Paul Novotny
  • Joseph Kolars
  • Thomas Habermann
  • Jeff Sloan
Original Article


BACKGROUND: While resident distress and its potential to negatively effect patient care have been well documented, little is known about resident well-being or its potential to enhance care.

OBJECTIVE: We measured resident well-being and explored its relationship with empathy.

DESIGN: Anonymous, cross-sectional survey.

PARTICIPANTS: Internal medicine residents at Mayo Clinic Rochester (n=165, summer 2003).

MEASUREMENTS: Well-being was measured using the previously validated Medical Outcomes Study 8-item Short Form (SF-8). Empathy was measured using the previously validated Perspective Taking (PT) and Empathetic Concerns (EC) Sub-scales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI).

RESULTS: Eighty-three (50%) residents responded to the survey. Mean scores for well-being as measured by the SF-8 were comparable to the general population, and empathy scores on the IRI were similar to other resident samples. Resident empathy on both the cognitive (PT) and emotive (EC) sub-scales of the IRI was higher for residents with higher mental well-being on the SF-8; however, this difference was statistically significant only for the cognitive sub-scale. The importance of a number of personal wellness promotion strategies differed for residents with higher mental well-being on the SF-8.

CONCLUSIONS: High mental well-being was associated with enhanced resident empathy in this cross-sectional survey. Future studies need to explore the potential for high resident well-being to enhance medical care and competency in addition to exploring the negative consequences of resident distress. Studies investigating how to promote resident well-being are needed.

Key words

resident well-being empathy competency distress 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tait D. Shanafelt
    • 1
    • 2
  • Colin West
    • 1
  • Xinghua Zhao
    • 3
  • Paul Novotny
    • 3
  • Joseph Kolars
    • 1
    • 4
  • Thomas Habermann
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jeff Sloan
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Internal MedicineMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Division of HematologyMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Cancer Center StatisticsMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  4. 4.Division of GastroenterologyMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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