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Nurse Educ Today. 2019 Sep;80:40-51. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2019.06.002. Epub 2019 Jun 11.

Teaching empathy to nursing students: A randomised controlled trial.

Author information

Faculty of Nursing. University of Cádiz. Venus Street, 11207 Algeciras, Cádiz, Spain. Electronic address:
Faculty of Nursing. University of Cádiz. Venus Street, 11207 Algeciras, Cádiz, Spain. Electronic address:
Faculty of Nursing and Physiotherapy. University of Cadiz. Ana de Viya Avenue 52, 11009 Cádiz, Spain. Electronic address:
Nursing and Physiotherapy Department. University of Cádiz. Ana de Viya Avenue 52, 11009 Cádiz, Spain.



Empathy has been reported to produce a positive effect on improving patient health outcomes, becoming a fundamental skill in any health personnel-patient relationship.


To evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention designed to improve the nursing students´ empathy, the learning perception, the improvement of the perception in the understanding of the content, and in the degree of difficulty as well as the acquisition of skills.


Multicentre randomised controlled trial.


This research was conducted at two schools of nursing at a public university in the Southwest of Spain.


116 nursing students were randomly assigned to an experimental or a control group (delayed intervention group once the post-training analysis was completed) during the second semester of the 2015/2016 academic year.


Pre-test, post-test, and follow-up data were obtained for each group using a simulated clinical interview. Empathy was the primary outcome (The Consultation and Relational Empathy Measure, Jefferson Scale of Empathy student version, Reynolds Empathy Scale, and Carkhuff Scale). The students' perceived knowledge, the learning perception, the self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale) and the understanding of the content and acquisition of skills (ad-hoc questions) were also analysed.


The results were improved in all the measures conducted in the experimental groups at the different centres after the intervention. The mean post-test simulation scores were higher than the pre-test with statistically significant differences. The results were maintained in the follow-up. The student's perception of learning and the perception of understanding of the content and the acquisition of skills were improved as well.


The study support that training in empathic competence is effective.


Empathy; Health communication; Intervention study; Nursing education; Nursing students; Professional-patient relations; Randomised controlled trial; Role-playing

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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