Author: Bowhay A Publication Year: 2013
Summary: Altruism and empathy are core positive values for doctors and trainees, however, negative traits, such as cynicism can also be evident. This study used items from the Jefferson Scale for Physician Empathy and Wrightsman’s Philosophies of Human Nature Scale to assess empathy, altruism and cynicism.
Description: Altruism and empathy are core positive values for doctors and doctors in training, however negative traits, such as cynicism can also be evident. Four cohorts of students at Liverpool Medical School completed a 37 item questionnaire using items from the Jefferson Scale for Physician Empathy and Wrightsman’s Philosophies of Human Nature Scale assessing empathy, altruism and cynicism. 677 completed questionnaires were received (response rate 54.6%) with 62.2 % being completed by females. Overall males were significantly less altruistic (mean difference=-1.1 (-2.0, -0.01), p=0.03), more cynical (mean difference=3.5 (2.2, 4.8), p<0.0001) and less empathetic (mean difference=-6.1 (-7.9, -4.3), p<0.0001) than females. Pearson’s correlations between the traits showed that altruism was significantly and negatively correlated with cynicism (r=-0.28, p=0.01) and significantly and positively correlated with empathy (r=0.24, p=0.01). Cynicism was significantly and negatively correlated with empathy (r=-0.30, p=0.01). This study has shown that male medical students are significantly less empathetic and altruistic and more cynical that female students. It has also shown that there is a positive relationship between empathy and altruism and a negative relationship with cynicism, in other words the more empathetic trainees are also more altruistic and less cynical.
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