Medical school curricula intended to promote empathy varies widely. Even the most effective curricula leave a significant group ofstudents untouched. Pre-existing student factors influence their response to learning experiences. We examined the individual predictors of first semester medical students‘ attitudes toward the value of physician empathy in clinical encounters.
First year students (n=4732) attending a stratified random sample of 49 US medical schools completed an online questionnaire that included measures of dispositional characteristics, attitudes and beliefs, self-concept and well-being.
Discomfort with uncertainty, close-mindedness, dispositional empathy, elitism, medical authoritarianism, egalitarianism, self-concept and well-being all independently predicted first year medical students‘ attitudes toward the benefit of physician empathy in clinical encounters.
Students vary on their attitude toward the value of physician empathy when they start medical school. The individual factors that predict their attitudes toward empathy may also influence their response to curricula promoting empathic care.
Curricula in medical school promoting empathic care may be more universally effective if students‘ preexisting attitudes are taken into account. Messages about the importance of physician empathy may need to be framed in ways that are consistent with the beliefs and prior world-views of medical students.
Authors: van Ryn, M., Hardeman, R. R., Phelan, S. M., Burke, S. E., Przedworski, J., Allen, M. L., Burgess, D. J., Ridgeway, J., White, R. O. and Dovidio, J. F.
Title: Psychosocial predictors of attitudes toward physician empathy in clinical encounters among 4732 1st year medical students: a report from the CHANGES study
Journal: Patient Educ Couns