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Med J Armed Forces India. 2014 Apr;70(2):179-85. doi: 10.1016/j.mjafi.2014.02.005. Epub 2014 Apr 12.

Cross sectional assessment of empathy among undergraduates from a medical college.

Author information

1
Associate Professor, Dept of Psychiatry, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune 411040, India.
2
Medical Cadet, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune 411040, India.
3
Commandant, INHS Kalyani, Visakhapatnam, India.
4
Senior Advisor (Psychiatry), INHS Asvini, Colaba, Mumbai, India.
5
Scientist 'F', Dept of Psychiatry, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune 411040, India.
6
Scientist 'E', Dept of Community Medicine, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune 411040, India.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Empathy is essentially a desirable quality among clinicians and can be developed during medical education. Studies from outside India have shown that higher empathy is related to better competency and choice of specialty may be related to empathy levels in them. Change in empathy levels among undergraduate medical students with progressive training has been often ascribed to reasons such as curriculum content, timing of clinical rotations. Gender differences in empathy levels also vary among different countries. Since many of such factors differ in India there is a need therefore to understand empathy and its correlates among medical students in India.

METHOD:

A cross sectional study was undertaken in a large medical college among the undergraduates of first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth semesters to measure their empathy levels. The evaluation was done using the Jefferson's Scale for Physician's Empathy- Student version.

RESULTS:

The study revealed highest empathy at entry level and a significant fall by seventh semester (p = 0.002). Female students had significantly higher empathy levels than male students (p = 0.012) across all semesters. The variance in empathy scores according specialty chosen is not statistically significant (p = 0.2468).

CONCLUSION:

The progressive decline in empathy levels with years in medical college here is seen much later than in western studies. Female students are more empathetic than male students. The relation of mean empathy scores and choice of specialty is inconclusive and at variance from other studies.

KEYWORDS:

Choice of specialty; Empathy; Undergraduate medical students

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