Empathy training in medical students – a randomized controlled trial

M. Wündrich, C. Schwartz, B. Feige, D. Lemper, C. Nissen & U. Voderholzer

Journal Club Entry by Anne Sprogell, TUSM-Maine Track Program, M18

It is well established that empathy is an important part of the doctor-patient relationship, ultimately leading to better patient satisfaction and outcomes. Given its positive impact on the patient experience, it seems logical that it should be a part of undergraduate medical education. But is empathy something that can be taught? Or is it an innate quality that you either have or you don’t? If it can be taught, what is the best strategy? In this randomized controlled trial of 158 third year medical students at a German university, Wündrich et al. attempt to answer these questions.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you define empathy? How do you convey empathy in your own everyday practice?
  2. Do you make a delibrate effort to convey empathy to patients, or do you think it is an innate quality that you naturally portray? Is empathy a skill that you learned and that you continue to practice and develop?
  3. When giving feedback to medical students, how often do you include feedback on empathy? What concrete recommendations do you provide?

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