The Empathy Enigma: Does It Still Exist? Comparison of Nursing Student Self-Reported Empathy with Standardized Actor and Student Peer Evaluation of Student Empathy

Sunday, 8 November 2015: 11:40 AM

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

Purpose: Nursing students learn that empathy should be at the heart of all nurse-patient encounters. Research outcomes have demonstrated that empathy declines among nursing students during the last year of their nursing program.  We wanted to learn if an educational strategy would improve empathy among student nurses during undergraduate nursing education.

Methods: A quasi-experimental design was used to compare pretest and postest scores on the Jefferson Scale of Empathy. We used the Jefferson Scale of Empathy Health Provider version (JSE-HPs) to evaluate whether or not an educational intervention using standardized actors positively influenced nursing student empathy. During two simulation experiences the standardized actors and student peers evaluated student empathy using the Jefferson Scale of Patient Perception of Health Professional and the Global Rating Scale of Empathy. Debriefing sessions were conducted and a written recording of each session was analyzed for thematic content.

Results: There were no significant overall changes in empathy over time or any significant correlations between students’ self-report of empathy and the standardized actors’ and peers’ evaluations of student empathy.  Notably, overall mean empathy scores did not decline over time, and empathy scores increased among some subgroups, including among male participants and second-degree students.

Conclusion: Our findings suggested that this educational intervention holds potential for maintaining and possibly improving empathy in nursing students. More research is needed to investigate how this intervention could have a stronger impact on empathy.