Background: Empathy, which involves understanding another person’s experiences and concerns, is an important component for developing physicians’ overall competence. This longitudinal study was designed to test the hypothesis that medical students’ empathy can be enhanced and sustained by Humanitude Care Methodology, which focuses on perception, emotion and speech. Methods: This six-year longitudinal observational study examined 115 students who entered Okayama University Medical School in 2013. The study participants were exposed to two empathy-enhancing programs: (1) a communication skills training program (involving medical interviews) and (2) a Humanitude training program aimed at enhancing their empathy. They completed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) seven times: when they entered medical school, before participation in the first program (medical interview), immediately after the first program, before the second program (Humanitude exercise), immediately after the second program, and in the 5th and 6th year (last year) of medical school. A total of 79 students (69% of the cohort) completed all seven test administrations of the JSE. Results: The mean JSE scores improved significantly after participation in the medical interview program (p < 0.01) and the Humanitude training program (p = 0.001). However, neither program showed a sustained effect. Conclusions: The Humanitude training program as well as medical interview training program, had significant short-term positive effects for improving empathy among medical students. Additional reinforcements may be necessary for a long-term sustained effect.
- Medical education
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