Improving medical students

Empathy’s Strengths & Weaknesses in Medical Education

Posted by medliorator on November 4, 2008

In a third study, Dr. Dyrbye found that when tested for empathy, medical students at baseline generally scored higher than their nonmedical peers. But, as medical students experienced more burnout, there was a corresponding drop in the level of empathy toward patients.

“What do they really need to know before graduating from medical school, and how could they most efficiently learn?” Dr. Drybye asked, reflecting on one of the central challenges of medical education. “All the information we want to share with them is not necessarily what they really need to learn.”

Medical Student Burnout and the Challenge to Patient Care [NYT]

Objective – To determine whether lower levels of empathy among a sample of medical students in the United States are associated with personal and professional distress and to explore whether a high degree of personal well-being is associated with higher levels of empathy.

Results – Medical student empathy scores were higher than normative samples of similarly aged individuals and were similar to other medical student samples. Domains of burnout inversely correlated with empathy (depersonalization with empathy independent of gender, all P < .02, and emotional exhaustion with emotive empathy for men, P = .009). Symptoms of depression inversely correlated with empathy for women (all P ≤ .01). In contrast, students’ sense of personal accomplishment demonstrated a positive correlation with empathy independent of gender (all P < .001). Similarly, achieving a high quality of life in specific domains correlated with higher empathy scores (P < .05). On multivariate analysis evaluating measures of distress and well-being simultaneously, both burnout (negative correlation) and well-being (positive correlation) independently correlated with student empathy scores.

How Do Distress and Well-being Relate to Medical Student Empathy? A Multicenter Study [J Gen Intern Med]

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