Assessment of empathy in different years of internal medicine training

Med Teach. 2002 Jul;24(4):370-3. doi: 10.1080/01421590220145725.


The operational measurement of physician empathy, as well as the question of whether empathy could change at different levels of medical education, is of interest to medical educators. To address this issue, 98 internal medicine residents from all 3 years of training were studied. The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy was administered, and residents' empathy scores correlated with ratings on humanistic attributes made by postgraduate program directors. No statistically significant differences in scores were found among residents of different training levels. Empathy scores remained also stable during internship (test-retest reliability = 0.72). Correlation between empathy and ratings on humanism was 0.17. Thus, the findings suggest that empathy is a relatively stable trait that is not easily amenable to change in residency training programs. The issue of whether targeted educational activities for the purpose of cultivating empathy can improve empathy scores awaits empirical scrutiny.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Empathy*
  • Hospitals, University / organization & administration
  • Humanism
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Philadelphia
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / psychology*