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Levels of empathy in undergraduate emergency health, nursing, and midwifery students: a longitudinal study

Authors Williams B, Brown T, Boyle M, McKenna L, Palermo C, Etherington J

Received 22 April 2014

Accepted for publication 7 July 2014

Published 11 September 2014 Volume 2014:5 Pages 299—306


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Brett Williams,1 Ted Brown,2 Malcolm Boyle,1 Lisa McKenna,3 Claire Palermo,4 Jamie Etherington1

1Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, 2Department of Occupational Therapy, 3School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University–Peninsula Campus, Frankston, 4Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University–Berwick Campus, Berwick, Vic, Australia

Purpose: This research examines the extent and nature of empathy among emergency health (paramedic), nursing, and midwifery students at one Australian university and investigates the longitudinal changes in empathy levels across the course of study.
Methods: First-, second-, and third-year students at Monash University completed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy–Health Professional (JSE-HP) in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and the resulting mean empathy scores were analyzed by course, year of course, year of study, age, and sex.
Results: Midwifery students were found to have higher empathy levels than nursing and emergency health students. Second- and third-year students scored higher than their counterparts in the first year. Empathy levels dipped in 2009 and rose in 2010. Students aged 26–30 years and 31–35 years recorded higher scores than their younger colleagues, and female students were found to be more empathic than their male counterparts.
Conclusion: The finding that empathy levels are relatively stable over the term of study contributes to the understanding of how empathy evolves over the course of study and offers insights into the importance of incorporating and promoting empathy in health care curricula.

Keywords: empathy, nursing, paramedics, midwifery, undergraduates

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