How do newly-qualified doctors perceive empathy in medical training and practice?

Steven Agius, Jeremy Brown, Emily Stratta, Jacky Hayden, Paul Baker

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Objective: Evidence exists of an apparent decline in empathy during medical training which may be detrimental to patient care. This qualitative study explores the reflections of a group of newly-qualified foundation doctors with regard to empathy in medical training and practice. Methods: Doctors in a UK Foundation Training Programme were invited to reflect on the subject of empathy in medical training and practice. Researchers obtained consent to access their anonymous reflective statements and analyze for recurring themes using framework analysis. Results: Coding of 65 trainees’ reflective statements resulted in identification of two thematic categories: (i) preparedness for empathic patient care and (ii) therapeutic effect of empathy. Conclusions: Trainees are aware of the value of empathy as a therapeutic tool. Many use it instinctively but not systematically. Clinical pressures can impact negatively on empathic dealings with patients and relatives. Targeted educational interventions and positive role modeling may assist foundation doctors enhance their skills in patient-centered care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-5
JournalJournal of Contemporary Medical Education
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jun 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jun 2017


  • Communication skills
  • empathy
  • physician
  • profession
  • professionalism/ethics
  • reflective practice

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