Send to

Choose Destination
Med Educ. 2000 Feb;34(2):90-4.

Evaluating the outcome of communication skill teaching for entry-level medical students: does knowledge of empathy increase?

Author information

Department of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



While the literature shows the clinical value for medical practitioners of skill in communicating with patients in an empathetic manner, objective evaluations of methods to teach empathy are few.


This paper describes a method of teaching entry-level medical students the elements of effective communication with patients, in preparation for their first practical exercises. The paper focuses on how the outcomes of the teaching were evaluated with special attention to empathy.


Student evaluative ratings were collected after training, and students also completed a pencil-and-paper test of empathy, both before and after the training. While all data were anonymous, student pre- and post-training empathy scores could be compared to assess individual changes in knowledge of empathy after training.


Most students (81%) felt better prepared to interview after the training. The pencil-and-paper measure of empathy has good reliability, both internal (alpha 0.83 and 0.91) and inter-rater (kappa 0.96). Overall, students made significant gains in their ability to make empathetic responses, although some (30%) showed no gains.


Further research is required to identify students who fail to acquire skill in expressing empathy after undergoing training, and to validate the pencil-and- paper measure of empathy against real-life performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center