Objective: To determine the impact of the Patient Empathy Modeling pedagogy on students' empathy towards caring for the underserved during an advanced pharmacy practice experience (APPE).
Design: Pharmacy students completing an APPE at 2 primary care clinics participated in a Patient Empathy Modeling assignment for 10 days. Each student "became the patient," simulating the life of an actual patient with multiple chronic diseases who was coping with an economic, cultural, or communication barrier to optimal healthcare. Students completed the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) before and after completing the assignment, and wrote daily journal entries and a reflection paper.
Assessment: Twenty-six students completed the PEM exercises from 2005-2006. Scores on the JSPE improved. Students' comments in journals and reflection papers revealed 3 major themes: greater appreciation of the difficulty patients have with adherence to medication and treatment regimens, increased empathy for patients from different backgrounds and patients with medical and psychosocial challenges, and improved ability to apply the lessons learned in the course to their patient care roles.
Conclusion: A Patient Empathy Modeling assignment improved pharmacy students' empathy toward underserved populations. Integrating the assignment within an APPE allowed students to immediately begin applying the knowledge and insight gained from the exercise.
Keywords: cultural competence; empathy; patient empathy modeling; underserved patients.