Study: Empathy in Medical Students as Related to Academic Performance, Clinical Competence and Gender


Empathy is a major component of a satisfactory doctor-patient relationship and the cultivation of empathy is a learning objective proposed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for all American medical schools. Therefore, it is important to address the measurement of empathy, its development and its correlates in medical schools.
We designed this study to test two hypotheses: firstly, that medical students with higher empathy scores would obtain higher ratings of clinical competence in core clinical clerkships; and secondly, that women would obtain higher empathy scores than men.
A 20-item empathy scale developed by the authors (Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy) was completed by 371 third-year medical students (198 men, 173 women).
Associations between empathy scores and ratings of clinical competence in six core clerkships, gender, and performance on objective examinations were studied by using t-test, analysis of variance, chi-square and correlation coefficients.