Empathy Research Projects
Students' Empathy During Encounters with Simulated Patients: In a collaborative study with the University Clinical Skills and Simulation Center, we examined the relationships between simulated patients’ assessment of medical students’ interpersonal skills and empathy through ten Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) stations with students’ self-report empathy in a study published in Medical Teacher.
Student Empathy, Gender and Ethnicity: In another study published in Academic Medicine using the same data, we addressed the issue of fairness in testing by examining the effects of student’s gender and ethnicity on simulated patients’ assessment of students’ empathy. This study was published in the August 2011 issue of Academic Medicine.
Measurement of Empathic and Sympathetic Orientation Toward Patient Care: Based on the notion that empathy and sympathy in patient care could have different consequences in clinical outcomes, we developed an instrument for measuring empathic and sympathetic orientations toward patient care and provided evidence in support of psychometrics of the instrument. The study was published in the August 2011 issue of Academic Medicine.
Physician Empathy and Shadowing Patients in Emergency Medicine: In a collaborative study with the Thomas Jefferson University emergency medicine residency program, we conducted a pilot study to examine changes in empathy among emergency medicine residents who were instructed to shadow patients in the emergency room, compared to a control group. This study was presented at the 2011 Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA. The study’s abstract was published in Academic Emergency Medicine. Based on the findings of this study, the Thomas Jefferson University emergency medicine residency program plans to continue implementing the shadowing experience to all new residents.
Empathy and Patient Outcomes: In a study conducted with colleagues from the Department of Family and Community Medicine, we examined the link between physician empathy and patient outcomes among 891 diabetic patients of 29 family physicians. This study which was published in Academic Medicine enjoyed broad media coverage. In another study of 242 primary care physicians and their 20,961 diabetic patients in Parma, Italy, the hypothesis of a significant association between physician empathy and patient outcomes (acute metabolic complications that required hospitalization in diabetic patients) was confirmed. This study was supported through a collaborative agreement between the Parma Local Health Authority, Parma, Italy; the Regional Health Care and Social Agency, Regione Emilia-Romagna, Italy; the Health Care Authority, Regione Emilia-Romagna, Italy; and Thomas Jefferson University. The study was published in Academic Medicine, and has enjoyed broad media coverage in the U.S. and Italy.
Patients’ Perception of Physician Empathy: In collaboration with the Department of Family and Community Medicine, we conducted a study to examine the relationship between patients’ perception of physician empathy and patient outcomes by extracting data from 535 out-patients’ electronic records who completed the Jefferson Scale of Patient Perceptions of Physician Empathy sent to them by mail. This study was published in the International Journal of Medical Education.
Patients’ Satisfaction with Primary Care Physicians: In collaboration with the Department of Family and Community Medicine, we developed a brief instrument (10 items) for measuring patients’ overall satisfaction with their primary care physicians and its link to physician empathy perceived by patients. 535 patients completed a mailed survey. This study was published in Family Medicine.
Enhancement of Empathy in Medical and Pharmacy Students: In a workshop presented at the Chicago College of Pharmacy and Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Midwestern University, we used a variation of the “aging game” in which volunteer students were coached to play the roles of an elderly patient and an administrator of a long-term care facility. They used a written skit provided by us. Other students observed the interactions between the two and discussed their feedback after the play in a small group. The purpose of the game was to enhance empathic understanding of students.
Psychometrics of the Health Professions Student Version of the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE-HPS) in Pharmacy and Nursing Students: In two studies, we examined the validity and reliability of a newly adapted version of the Jefferson Scale of Empathy for administration to students in health professions other than medicine. In the first study, in collaboration with researchers at Department of Nursing, College of Health Professions, Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, nursing students participated in the study which was published in the Journal of Interprofessional Care. The second study, in collaboration with researchers at Chicago College of Pharmacy, Midwestern University, pharmacy students participated in the study which will be published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education.
Rocking Chair Project and Empathy: The Rocking Chair Project offers family medicine residents the opportunity to deliver and assemble a rocking chair in the homes of indigent mothers of new born babies. We are collaborating in assessing the effectiveness of this project on residents’ empathy. Preliminary findings of a pilot study were published in Family Medicine. We have completed a nationwide three-year longitudinal study to further examine the short and long-term effects of the Rocking Chair Project on the enhancement of empathy among participating family medicine residents compared to a control group.