Opinion: Student’s perspective of the teaching of empathy in medical school

My medical school’s curriculum includes several lectures on compassion and empathy in the clinical setting.

There has been much talk recently about the decline of empathy among physicians. Some have attributed this to a fault with the medical school admission process, arguing that the system does not adequately filter out students with certain personality deficits.

  • (1) Others have argued students possess most of the requisite social competencies to begin with, but lose them over the course of medical training
  • (2) Regardless of the cause, it is well-known empathy among medical students declines during the first year of clerkship
  • .(3) For many, this could be the first step down a long and slippery slope.

There is no denying that empathy, like the stethoscope or penlight, is an indispensable part of a good doctor’s tool kit. But like most other qualities, empathy can either be refined or lost.

 Shaurya Taran is a medical student at the University of Ottawa