Measuring empathy in healthcare profession students using the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy: health provider--student version

J Interprof Care. 2011 Jul;25(4):287-93. doi: 10.3109/13561820.2011.566648. Epub 2011 May 9.


While empathy is commonly accepted as a mutually beneficial aspect of the health provider-patient relationship, evidence exists that many health profession students are unable to demonstrate this important skill. This study, the initial phase of a 2-year longitudinal series, examined measurement properties of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) adapted for administration to health profession students (JSE-HPS version), and investigated group differences of empathy scores in the baccalaureate nursing (BSN) program within the College of Health Professions at a public university in the southeastern part of the USA. The 20-item survey and a demographic questionnaire were completed by 265 BSN students. Correlational analyses, t-test, and analysis of variance were used to examine internal relationships and group differences. Results showed the median item-total score correlation was statistically significant (0.42). The internal consistency of the scale (Cronbach's coefficient α) was 0.78, falling within the generally agreed standard. Test-retest reliability coefficients were acceptable at 0.58 (within 3 months interval) and 0.69 (within 6 months interval) between testing. Women scored higher than men and older students outscored younger classmates. No significant relationship was found between empathy scores and ethnicity, previous non-nursing degree, or importance of religion to the participant. These findings support measurement properties of the JSE-HPS version, and can bolster the confidence of researchers in using the Scale for measuring empathy in diverse health profession students, as one component of program evaluation as well as evaluating interprofessional learning activities among diverse healthcare professional students and interprofessional collaboration.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Communication*
  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Psychological Theory
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Students, Nursing
  • United States
  • Young Adult