Correlates of Empathy Level in Incoming Medical Residents in a Large Peruvian Hospital

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Jeff David Huarcaya-Victoria
Jorge de la Cruz-Oré


Background: Empathy is an important ability for interpersonal relationships, of special interest in the relationship between physician and patient. However, despite its importance, there has been very little work done on the study and evaluation of medical empathy in Peru. Objectives: The study was aimed at evaluating level of empathy in medical residents entering Hospital Nacional Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen (HNGAI), a large hospital in Lima, Peru and at evaluating its correlation with some important contextual and developmental variables. Material and Methods: This was an observational cross-sectional study conducted on 107 incoming medical residents from a total of 142. The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) was used and sociodemographic, professional and academic variables were collected. An exploratory data analysis was performed with SPSS 20. Results: The mean score of empathy level was 116.07. Although interesting rends were noted, no significant differences were found between level of empathy and specialty choice (“People-oriented”: 116.28 versus “technology-oriented”: 115.65; p = 0.837); gender (men: 114.74 versus women: 117.43; p = 0.341); and desire to study the selected specialty (desire: 116.37 versus no desire: 111.17; p = 0.333). Significant correlations were found between empathy level and “having a professional mentor for treating patients” (p = 0.024) and “affiliation to a religion”(p = 0.025). There was no significant correlation between level of empathy and age of the resident (r = 0.089; p = 0.373). Conclusions: Residents who identified themselves as affiliated to a religion as well as those who had a professional mentor for treating patients obtained higher scores of empathy level. While the study reflected positively on the establishment of a research program on empathy, further studies, including longitudinal ones are warranted.

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