Patient Interviews Improve Empathy Levels of Preclinical Medical Students

Sapol Thepwiwatjit, Sasiriyar Athisereerusth, Wanicha Lertpipopmetha, Thanit Nanthanasub, Yodying Dangprapai


Objective: In order to cultivate and maintain empathy during medical school, an experiential learning program, “A Patient as a Human Being”, was designed to promote empathy in second-year medical students through interviews with patients focusing on their suffering and the difficulties arising from their illnesses and hospital stays.
The second-year medical students were divided into groups of three and four. Each group was assigned a patient to interview under close supervision. The selected patients were informed beforehand about the interview and voluntarily agreed to participate. The Thai version of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy–Student Version (JSPE-SV) was used to assess the students’ empathy levels.
The baseline JSPE-SV score (n = 310) was 114.10±10.20. After the interview, the scores significantly increased (1.19 [0.21-2.18], P = 0.009). Students in the lower-half group of baseline scores showed a higher improvement (2.64 [1.14–4.15], P < 0.001) than those in the upper-half group. The difference coefficient by multivariate analysis of the improved JSPE–SV scores between the two groups was 3.03 [1.08-4.98] (p = 0.002), accompanied by a correlation between the pre-activity empathy score and the improved score (  = - 0.21, P-value < 0.01).
The patient interviews improved the empathy levels of the preclinical medical students, especially those with lower baseline empathy levels.


Empathy; preclinical medical student; experiential learning; patient interview

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