Effect of Anxiety on Empathy: An Observational Study Among Nurses

Healthcare (Basel). 2020 May 21;8(2):140. doi: 10.3390/healthcare8020140.


Empathy, defined as an emotional ability to put oneself in the place of others, read their state of mind, and think how they are feeling, is an essential pillar of nursing care. On the other hand, anxiety is a frequent emotion that can be generated in stressful work environments, like nurses developing their activity. The aim of the present study is to explore the value of empathy and anxiety personal traits in staff nurses. The sample was comprised of 197 staff nurses from tertiary level hospitals from Madrid, Spain, where 79.2% were women and 20.8% were men in the present study. The instrument used for analysis was the Spanish adaptation of the 16PF5 questionnaire. The results showed the following measurements to warmth (5.58), lively (5.25), socially bold (5.6), privacy (5.82), open to change (5.62), self-reliance (6.12), and anxiety (6.38). Furthermore, anxiety affects positively to warmth (t: 2.66; p > 0.0001) and lively (t = 2.36; p < 0.05), but in a negative way to social bold (t = -3.17; p < 0.001) or open to change (t = -5.81; p < 0.0001). However, it was not seen to have any effect over privacy (t = 1.96; p = 0.052) and self-reliance (t = 1.19; p = 0.234). Finally, it is recommended that healthcare professionals reinforce their personal competencies to strengthen their skills to manage anxiety and improve their empathy competencies.

Keywords: 16PF5 questionnaire; anxiety; empathy; nursing; personality.