Rethinking empathy decline: results from an OSCE.
The clinical teacher
The phenomenon of empathy decline among medical students during training is widely accepted, with evidence based largely on studies using self-administered instruments. Recently, researchers have called into question this phenomenon, in light of new findings that suggest a discrepancy between self-administered empathy scores and observed empathic behaviours: for example, during objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs). Our objective was to compare observed empathy among medical students in different clerkship years using an OSCE.Participants were medical students in their first or second year of clinical clerkships, enrolled in a required family medicine clerkship at Stanford University. Participants completed an OSCE that was directly observed by trained faculty staff, who used the Measure of Patient-Centered Communication (MPCC) instrument to measure empathic behaviours. Statistics were used to determine correlations between observed empathy and the students' year of clerkship, gender, and specialty preference.A total of 129 medical students, evenly divided by gender and clerkship year, participated. There was a possible trend towards higher MPCC scores among students in their second clerkship year compared with students in their first year (p = 0.09), which became more significant when adjusted for outlier effects (p = 0.05). There was no difference in performance by gender. Students interested in a 'people-oriented' specialty scored higher in 'handling the patient's frustration' compared with those who are interested in a 'technology-oriented' specialty.In our study, observed empathic behaviours were not lower in the second compared with the first year of clerkship training. More research is warranted to investigate the apparent discrepancy between self-administered empathy scores and observed empathic behaviours. New findings suggest a discrepancy between self-administered empathy scores and observed empathic behaviours.
View details for DOI 10.1111/tct.12608
View details for PubMedID 28164429