Empathy levels among medical students: A psycho-social analysis
Empathy is an important component in a doctor-patient relationship. It is an objective and relatively a stable constitutional trait. The apprehension among educationalists that clinical training may have an adversative effect on medical trainees and student empathy levels, holds truth as indicated by the existing literature. Long work/study hours and sleep deprivation may be the potential reasons believed to contribute to empathy decline. The aim of the study was to determine the changes in the empathy levels among the students, during their medical school years. The opinions and observations of medical students were recorded and interpreted hoping to determine the main reasons behind the changing empathy levels (if present). A psycho- social cross-sectional analysis of medical students’ empathy levels was conducted at Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences Jamshoro. A 20 item JSPE-S (Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy–Student Version) self-administered structured questionnaire including 7- point Likert scale was used to evaluate empathy levels among students. Convenient sampling procedure was used. A total of 300 students were approached during their class timings at lecture halls. A prior verbal informed consent was taken and those who agreed were included in the study. The duration of study was from May, 2014 to August, 2014. Data analysis was done via SPSS 16.0.41% (n=123) out of 300 participants were male while 59% (n=177) were females. The mean empathy value of first year students (91.29) was greater than that of final year students (84.53). E.S value i.e. effect size value comes out to be 0.5, which is moderately significant. Study concluded that the students at LUMHS have the least empathy score in comparison to the standard values. This decline in the empathy levels explains the change of social behavior of the students across their medical school years. It is related to the hectic and difficult time period of their studies, their personal experience with the patients, realization of the difficulties and challenges in seeking medical services.
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