Relationship between level of empathy during residency training and perception of professionalism climate

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology; Educational Development


Background: Empathy is one of the vital personality attributes for all physicians. It is essential for establishing general interpersonal relationships among doctors and patients. Unfortunately, there is evidence for the decline of physician's empathy during the clinical training phase and is a major concern for medical educators worldwide. One of the major factors reported for the decline of this trait is an unprofessional learning environment.
Objective: This study examines the relationship between empathy level and perception of climate of professionalism among residents.
Method: The study participants included 70 residents of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pediatrics departments of a private sector tertiary care hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. Two self-administered internet based surveys - Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) and "Professionalism Climate Instrument"(PCI) - were administered to assess the level of empathy among the participants and their perception of professionalism in the learning environment. The relationship between the level of empathy and professionalism was analyzed using Spearman rank correlation.
Results: The overall response rate was 81.4% with mean empathy level of 103 ± 13. The internal consistency of each scale measured by Cronbach's coefficient α was 0.76 for JSPE and 0.65 for PCI. No significant difference was observed in the mean empathy scores between senior and junior residents of both specialties. Statistically significant difference in empathy scores existed between female and male residents (p = 0.012; 95% CI, 2.27 to 17.59). The mean PCI score was 106 + 8.88 with no significant difference among residents of two specialties. Professionalism score was not found to vary with either the year of residency or gender. Empathy score and professionalism climate were not found to be correlated (rs = 0.56, p = 0.64).
Conclusion: The findings suggested that empathy is a relatively stable trait that remains unchanged during residency training programs. Female residents had higher empathic concern than the male trainees, however, the empathy level of the participants was not found to be influenced by the climate of professionalism.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Medical Education