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.