The Empathy Enigma: A Comparison of Nursing Students' Self-Reported Empathy with Simulated Patients' Assessments of Students' Empathy

Tuesday, 19 November 2013: 9:10 AM

Julia M. Ward, PhD, RN, BSN, MSN
Jefferson School of Nursing, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to identify simulation exercises that explore empathic behaviors of nursing students.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to discuss the comparison of nursing student's self-report of empathy and the standardized patient's assessment of nursing student's empathy.

Empathy must be at the heart of all nurse-patient encounters. Yet it seems to be more difficult than ever to ensure that this is the case. Today's nursing students face complex challenges. In addition to managing their didactic coursework, they must navigate their clinical  experiences developing their "sea legs" on the clinical floor and mastering evidence-based, patient care while striving to keep the humanistic needs of their patients in mind. Given the limited time frame for interactions between student nurses and patients, the quality of their relationship is critical, which makes the conveyance of empathy that much more important. The fundamental question is, "How do we leverage nursing curricula to foster and develop empathy in nursing students?" The question is important and timely considering the empirical findings of a decline in empathy among senior year nursing students. This study used standardized patients to evaluate student performance of empathy compared to students' self-report of empathy. A longitudinal design was employed. Analysis was conducted using mixed methodology involving correlations, ANOVAs, and thematic analysis of debriefing sessions. Interventions that focus on empathic simulations provide a mechanism to identify and improve empathic behaviors in nursing students.