The Empathy Enigma: An Empirical Study of Decline in Empathy among Undergraduate Nursing Students

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DOI: 10.21522/TIJNR.2015.04.01.Art005

Authors : Sophonie Ndahayo, Michel Vaillant Mutabazi, Amanda Schwartzentruber


The purpose of this study was to examine changes in empathy during an academic year among undergraduate nursing students. The research followed a descriptive methodology with a sample of 214 undergraduate nursing students who completed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy at the beginning and at the end of 2006-2007 academic year. Data were collected using a questionnaire. Results showed a statistically significant decline of empathy for nursing students who were exposed more than others to patient encounters during study period (F (2, 211) = 4.2, p< 0.01). Findings were consistent with those found among medical students in that nursing students' encounters with patients, though not very clear on those who had less encounters with clients. The authors suggested that changes to the modalities of teaching may be contributing a disconnect in human connections, due to an emphasis on self-directed and simulated learning experiences. Further studies to identify whether findings of the research impacted on patient outcomes and nurse-students were recommended.

Keywords: Empathy enigma, clinical experience, nurse-patient relationship, nursing students.


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