Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 200–202

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

  • Daniel C. R. Chen
  • M. Elaine Pahilan
  • Jay D. Orlander
Brief Report



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.


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).


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).


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


empathy JSPE OSCE 

Supplementary material

11606_2009_1193_MOESM1_ESM.doc (68 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel C. R. Chen
    • 1
  • M. Elaine Pahilan
    • 2
  • Jay D. Orlander
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Section of General Internal Medicine, Evans Department of MedicineBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.Office of Medical EducationBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  3. 3.Medical ServiceVA Boston Healthcare SystemBostonUSA

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