Level of medical empathy and associated factors in medical students

Nivel de empatía médica y factores asociados en estudiantes de medicina
Giovanny de Jesús Parra Ramíreza, Rubén Marcelo Cámara Vallejosa

a Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, México

Recibido 28 julio 2016, Aceptado 01 noviembre 2016

Palabras Clave

Educación, Médica, Empatía, Médicos, Prueba psicológica, Precisión de las mediciones dimensionales


Education, Medical, Empathy, Physicians, Psychological test, Dimensional measurement accuracy


Introduction: Medical empathy is a quality that allows the physician a better understanding of the patient. Empathic attitude primarily implicates the cognitive dimension and is acquired in the medical training process.

Objective: To analyze the level of medical empathy and associated factors in medical students.

Method: The Jefferson scale of physician empathy was applied to 180 medical students, which results yielding between 20 and 140 points. Based on this and using a standard deviation of 12.98, obtained from a pilot study, a weighted scale of medical empathy was created to establish the level of medical empathy.

Dependent variables: The Jefferson scale of physician empathy score and level of medical empathy; independent variables: scholar grade, age, sex, place of provenance, school of provenance, religion and specialty they pretend to study. Statistical test used: Kendall's Tau-b, Spearman correlation, chi square, Mann Whitney U test, ANOVA and t student test.

Results: The score obtained was placed in 5 categories ranging from deficient to high. The average score obtained was 113, equivalent to an outstanding level. Significant correlation was obtained between age and level of empathy (p=.006, Rho index=0.176) and scholar grade and level of empathy (p=.001, Tau-b index=−0,231). Women had greater empathy score (p=.017).

Conclusions: Students obtained an outstanding level of medical empathy. The lower level was obtained in the highest scholar grade and age. Women are more empathetic than men. At higher scholar grade, less ability for perspective taking, compassionate care and “stand in the place of another”; at higher age, less ability to “stand in the place of another”; women had greater ability for perspective taking and compassionate care.