Assessment of empathy among first-year medical students: A knowledge, attitude and practice study

Sanjib Kumar Ghosh, Soumya Chakraborty


Good clinicians are expected to demonstrate empathetic behaviour whereby it is necessary for medical students to develop an empathetic attitude during the curriculum. The anatomy classroom is possibly the ideal place to cultivate the sense of empathy among medical students as they deal with the feelings associated with dissecting a human cadaver. Hence we conducted this knowledge, attitude and practice study to assess the empathetic attitude among first-year medical students. A self designed, pretested questionnaire was framed to explore the sense of empathy and the questionnaire was administered among 100 first year MBBS students before the summative assessment and their responses were collected and analyzed. We observed that 55% and 16.3% of the respondents were inclined for adopting a mechanized approach to patient care as they were in favour of investigation oriented diagnosis and medicine based treatment respectively as primary component of medical practice. Only 16.3% and 12.2% of the respondents prioritized patient oriented approaches in the form of understanding the disease process and emphasizing on communication with patients respectively. During clinical training 70.4% and 15.3% of respondents would concentrate on self development as they look forward to honing their clinical skills and acquiring high level of knowledge respectively. Only 8.2% and 6.1% of the respondents opted for developing patient oriented skills like developing an empathetic attitude and enhancing communication skills respectively. However 60.2% agreed that empathy of a physician does influence the clinical outcome and 74.5% opined that they have developed/enhanced a feeling of empathy by learning anatomy through human cadaver based teaching. Empathy among first-year medical students was on the lower side, however they have developed a baseline empathy level after one year of attending dissection classes in anatomy. Effectively designed education strategies can further enhance the feeling of empathy during clinical training.


Empathy; medical practice; anatomy; human dissection; clinical training

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