Honors College Thesis


Becoming an Empathetic Physician: A Look at Why Empathy Changes Throughout Medical Education Public Deposited

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  • Though empathy has proven to be a vital component of the physician-patient relationship, recent studies have shown that medical students tend to lose empathy during their third year of medical school as they start interacting with patients for the first time. The main objective of this project was to find out why empathy decline in medical school happens. The secondary objective was to look for methods to help prevent empathy decline from happening. Through a survey of the current literature and research on the subject and interviews with four physicians and five medical students, the objectives were addressed. Three types of causes for empathy decline surfaced in both the literature review and interviews including a lack of time to develop an understanding of the patient’s situation, mental strain from an immense workload impeding cognitive ability, and some aspects of the medical education system itself interfering with empathy. The interviewees then suggested ways to prevent empathy decline such as increasing interaction with patients, integrating empathy more thoroughly into the curriculum, and providing opportunities for social groups and self-care. The findings of this study should be used to spread awareness of empathy decline in medical students and to justify further research on the subject.
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