Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Medical students’ perspectives on clinical empathy training


Context: There is a need for studies specifically addressing the barriers to empathy training from the perspective of medical students. The objective of this study was to evaluate attitudes of 3rd and 4th year medical students regarding their training in clinical empathy at a public teaching hospital and medical school. Methods: A questionnaire assessing students’ satisfaction with, and opinions on, empathy training, as well as barriers to training, was distributed during the last quarter of the year. Results: Of 188 eligible participants, 157 (84%) responded. Approximately one-half of the respondents said empathy could be taught. Eighty-one percent of respondents felt that their empathy had increased or stayed the same during their training. When asked about barriers for learning empathy, the majority of respondents chose time pressure and lack of good role models. Respondents rated breaking bad news, talking to patients about medical mistakes and taking care of dying or demanding patients as areas in need of more empathy-related training. Conclusions: Although the majority of students were satisfied with their training of clinical empathy, our study highlights the need for innovative methods to address concerns regarding barriers to practicing empathy, as well as the need for more training in how to demonstrate empathy in challenging clinical situations. ©B Afghani, S Besimanto, A Amin, J Shapiro, 2011.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC Academic Senate's Open Access Policy. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View