Transition in Empathic Nursing Skill and Ego-Identity by Age Among Japanese Nurses and Nursing Students

Monday, 30 July 2012

Kyoko Ueno, PhD
School of Health Care and Nursing, Juntendo University, Chiba, Japan
Yuriko Yamakawa, PhD
School of Health Sciences, Medical Center, Ibaraki Prefectural University of Health Sciences, Ibaraki, Japan
Hiroaki Nishikawa, PhD
School of Nursing, University of Shizuoka School of Nursing, Shizuoka, Japan
Kayo Kurihara, MS
College of Nursing, Ibaraki Christian University, Ibaraki, Japan

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to understand the structure of nurse’s empathic behavior.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to understand the nurses in twenties have difficulty in empathizing with a patient.

Purpose: Nurses are expected to interact empathically with patients, a skill requiring mental maturation and an integrated sense of self. This study was designed to clarify the age-associated characteristics of empathic nursing and ego-identity by age group. 

Methods: The survey was conducted on hospital nurses and 4th-year nursing students from 3 universities (hereafter students) having completed basic clinical training. A self-administered questionnaire consisting of an original Empathic Nursing Behavior Scale (ENB), and an Identity Scale (IS) was used. Responses were collected anonymously, and scale scores were subject to multiple comparison by age group.

Results:  The subjects were nurses from 14 hospitals (n=985) and students (age 20-22, n=192). Mean age was 32.5±10.5 years; mean duration of nursing experience was 10.6±8.6 years. Comparison of the four ENB subscale component scores revealed students directing the highest degree of attention to patients. Nurses 40 and over exhibited higher levels of intuitive understanding of patients, while no difference was seen regarding direct confirmation of this understanding between age-group. However, nursing based upon ethical or moral beliefs was most prominent among students than nurses in any other age group. Weak positive association was noted between ENB and IS scores (r=0.3), and nurses in their 20s exhibited significantly lower self-reliance compared to all other groups including the students.

Conclusion: Nurses 50 and over were seen to interact empathically with patients grounded upon self-reliance and stability. On the contrary, nurses in their 20s were noted experiencing more difficulty with empathic nursing than students, in the face of threatened stability of the self. While students were highly conscious of the moral basis to nursing, it appeared a wavering in this belief nurtured through basic education may be threatening the identity of nurses in their 20s actually working in the clinical setting.