An Assessment of Undergraduate Paramedic Students’ Empathy Levels

Williams, Brett, Boyle, Malcolm, Brightwell, Richard, Devenish, Scott, Hartley, Peter, McCall, Michael, McMullen, Paula, Munro, Graham, O'Meara, Peter, & Webb, Vanessa (2012) An Assessment of Undergraduate Paramedic Students’ Empathy Levels. International Journal of Medical Education, 3, pp. 98-102.

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Abstract: Objectives Evidence suggests that improved empathy behaviours among healthcare professionals directly impacts on healthcare outcomes. However, the ‘nebulous’ properties of empathic behaviour often means that healthcare profession educators fail to incorporate the explicit teaching and assessment of empathy within the curriculum. The objective of this study was to assess the extent of empathy in paramedic students across seven Australian universities.

Methods A cross-sectional study using a paper-based questionnaire employing a convenience sample of first, second, and third year undergraduate paramedic students. Student empathy levels were measured using the Medical Condition Regard Scale (MCRS).

Results A total of 783 students participated in the study of which 57% were females. The medical conditions: intellectual disability, attempted suicide, and acute mental illness all produced mean scores above 50 suggesting good empathetic regard, while patients presenting with substance abuse produced the lowest mean score M= 41.57 (SD=12.29). There was a statistically significant difference between males (M= 49.79) and females (M=51.61) p=0.006, for patients with intellectual disability.

Conclusions The findings from this study found that student reported poor empathetic regard for patients with substance abuse, while female students report higher levels of empathy than their male colleagues across each medical condition. The overall findings provide a framework for educators to begin constructing guidelines focusing on the need to incorporate, promote and instil empathy into paramedic students in order to better prepare them for future out-of-hospital healthcare practice.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 53874
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Empathy, Undergraduates, Paramedics, HERN
DOI: 10.5116/ijme.4fba.9190
ISSN: 2042-6372
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > OTHER MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (119900)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Clinical Sciences
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Brett Williams et al.
Copyright Statement: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of
work provided the original work is properly cited.
Deposited On: 28 Sep 2012 05:06
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2012 06:56

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