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J Korean Med Sci. 2016 Apr;31(4):590-7. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2016.31.4.590. Epub 2016 Mar 2.

A Multicenter Study Investigating Empathy and Burnout Characteristics in Medical Residents with Various Specialties.

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Department of Psychiatry, Kyung Hee University Hospital, Seoul, Korea .
Department of Psychiatry, Soonchunhyang University Hospital, Seoul, Korea .
Department of Psychiatry, Myongji Hospital, Goyang, Korea .
Department of Psychiatry, Keimyung University College of Medicine, Daegu, Korea .
Department of Psychiatry, Jeju National University College of Medicine, Jeju, Korea .
Department of Psychiatry, Chonbuk National University College of Medicine, Jeonju, Korea .
Department of Psychiatry, Kyung Hee University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea .


We assessed empathy in medical residents, including factors modifying empathy and the relationship between empathy and burnout. Participants (n = 317 residents, response rate = 42%) from 4 university hospitals completed a socio-demographic questionnaire, the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (Health Professional version, Korean edition), and the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Participants were classified by medical specialty: "people-oriented specialty" (POS group) or "technology-oriented specialty" (TOS group), with more women in the POS than in the TOS group, χ(2) = 14.12, P < 0.001. Being female, married, and having children were factors related to higher empathy (gender, t = -2.129, P = 0.034; marriage, t = -2.078, P = 0.038; children, t = 2.86, P = 0.005). Within specialty group, POS residents showed higher empathy scores in the fourth as compared to the first year, F = 3.166, P = 0.026. Comparing POS and TOS groups by year, fourth year POS residents had significantly higher scores than did fourth year TOS residents, t = 3.349, P = 0.002. There were negative correlations between empathy scores and 2 MBI subscales, emotional exhaustion (EE) and depersonalization (DP). Additionally, first year POS residents had higher DP scores than did first year TOS residents, t = 2.183, P = 0.031. We suggest that factors important for empathy are type of medical specialty, marriage, siblings, and children. Burnout state may be related to decreasing empathy.


Burnout; Empathy; Medical Education; Medical Residency; Medical Specialization; Physicians

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