The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy: preliminary psychometrics and group comparisons in Italian physicians

Acad Med. 2009 Sep;84(9):1198-202. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181b17b3f.


Purpose: To examine the psychometrics of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) among a sample of Italian physicians.

Method: The JSPE was translated into Italian using back-translation procedures to ensure the accuracy of the translation. The translated JSPE was administered to 778 physicians at three hospitals in Rome, Italy in 2002. Individual empathy scores were calculated, as well as descriptive statistics at the item and scale level. Group comparisons of empathy scores were also made among men and women, physicians practicing in medical or surgical specialties, physicians working in different hospitals, and at physicians at various levels of career rank.

Results: Results are reported for 289 participants who completed the JSPE. Item-total score correlations were all positive and statistically significant. The prominent component of "perspective taking," which is the most important underlying construct of the scale, emerged in the factor analysis of the JSPE and was similar in both Italian and American samples. However, more factors appeared among Italian physicians, indicating that the underlying construct of empathy may be more complex among Italians. Cronbach coefficient alpha was .85. None of the group differences observed among physicians classified by gender, hospital of practice, specialty, or level of career rank reached statistical significance.

Conclusions: Findings generally provide support for the construct validity and reliability of the Italian version of the JSPE. Further research is needed to determine whether the lack of statistically significant differences in empathy by gender and specialty is related to cultural peculiarities, the translation of the scale, or sampling.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Public
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians*
  • Professional Competence*
  • Psychometrics