Effect of gender, age, and relevant course work on attitudes toward empathy, patient spirituality, and physician wellness

Teach Learn Med. 2004 Spring;16(2):165-70. doi: 10.1207/s15328015tlm1602_8.


Background: The emphasis in medical education on viewing the patient as a whole person addresses current concerns about the negative impact of standard physician training that may lead to impaired patient-physician relationships.

Purposes: To assess self-ratings of empathy, spirituality, wellness, and tolerance in a sample of medical students and practitioners to explore differences by gender, age, and training.

Methods: A survey was created that assesses empathy, spirituality, wellness, and tolerance in the medical setting. Surveys were completed anonymously by medical students and practitioners from the medical school.

Results: The youngest groups scored highest on empathy and wellness and lowest on tolerance. Participation in medical school wellness sessions correlated with higher empathy and wellness scores; participation in both empathy and spirituality sessions correlated with higher empathy scores.

Conclusion: Exposure to educational activities in empathy, philosophical values and meaning, and wellness during medical school may increase empathy and wellness in medical practice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Midwestern United States
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Sex Factors
  • Spirituality*
  • Students, Medical / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires