Medical Student Empathy In The Eye Of The (Self vs. Standardized Patient) Beholder

empathy   In this interesting study, more than 3,000 student – standardized patient (SP) encounters were analyzed by the gender and ethnicity of the participants.  Medical students and SPs completed non-identical evaluations of the medical student’s empathy.  Female students overall were rated as slightly more empathetic than male students by both self-ratings and SP ratings, regardless of SP demographics.  Effects of race were more complex.  African-American students as a group were rated as slightly less empathetic than other students by SPs, but overall self-rated with the highest marks for empathy, incongruent with SP ratings.  African-American male SPs tended to be the “easiest graders”, i.e. give the highest marks for empathy, to all students except for African-American male students.  These results should, this reviewer thinks, be viewed as hypothesis-generating, but cause concern about using these ratings for high-stakes decisions. — Laura Willett, MD

Berg, Katherine MD, MPH; Blatt, Benjamin MD; Lopreiato, Joseph MD, MPH; Jung, Julianna MD; Schaeffer, Arielle; Heil, Daniel; Owens, Tamara MEd; Carter-Nolan, Pamela L. PhD, MPH; Berg, Dale MD; Veloski, Jon MS; Darby, Elizabeth; Hojat, Mohammadreza PhD,Standardized Patient Assessment of Medical Student Empathy: Ethnicity and Gender Effects in a Multi-Institutional Study. Acad Med. October 21, 2014

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