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Am J Med. 2016 Dec;129(12):1334-1337. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2016.08.005. Epub 2016 Aug 24.

Medical Humanities Coursework Is Associated with Greater Measured Empathy in Medical Students.

Author information

  • 1Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Washington State University, Spokane. Electronic address: jeremy.graham@wsu.edu.
  • 2Providence Internal Medicine Residency Spokane, Wash.
  • 3University of Washington School of Medicine.
  • 4College of Nursing, Washington State University Spokane.
  • 5Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Washington State University, Spokane.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

The primary focus of the study was to determine whether coursework in the medical humanities would ameliorate students' loss of and failure to develop empathy, a problem known to be common during medical education.

METHODS:

Students were offered an elective course in the Medical Humanities for academic credit. The Jefferson Scale of Empathy Student Version (JSE-S) was administered at the beginning and end of an academic year in which humanities courses were offered. Changes in JSE-S scores among students who studied Medical Humanities were compared with changes in student who did not take any humanities coursework.

RESULTS:

Medical humanities coursework correlated with superior empathy outcomes among the medical students. Of students not enrolled in humanities courses, 71% declined or failed to increase in JSE-S score over the academic year. Of those who took humanities coursework, 46% declined or failed to increase in JSE-S scores. The difference was statistically significant (P = .03). The medical humanities curriculum correlated with favorable empathy outcomes as measured by the JSE-S.

CONCLUSIONS:

Elective medical humanities coursework correlated with improved empathy score outcomes in a group of US medical students. This may reflect a direct effect of the humanities coursework. Alternately, students' elective choice to take medical humanities coursework may be a marker for students with a propensity to favorable empathy outcomes.

KEYWORDS:

Curriculum innovations; Empathy; Medical humanities

PMID:
27566497
DOI:
10.1016/j.amjmed.2016.08.005
[PubMed - in process]
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