Enhancement of Empathy



Although empathy is viewed as an important element of professionalism in medicine, a few obstacles to the development and implementation of empathy exist in medical education and practice. For example, students tend to become cynical during their medical education, a paradigm shift is taking place in the health care system, and the system has become overly reliant on biotechnology. Thus, attention to the enhancement of empathy in medical education and the practice of health care not only is timely and important but also is a mandate that must be acted on by educators in the health professions. Research often shows that empathy is an attribute that is amenable to change as a result of educational experiences. Approaches used to enhance empathy include interpersonal skills training, exercises in perspective taking, role playing, role models, imagining, and exposure to educational activities that resemble patients’ experiences in encounterswith health care providers and hospital staff. In addition, the Balint approach to improving physician–patient interpersonal relationships has also been used to improve physicians’ empathy. The study of literature and the arts and the improvement of narrative skills are specifically recommended as ways of enhancing empathy through a better understanding of human emotions, pain, and suffering. Empirical research is needed to confirmthe effectiveness of programs designed to enhance empathy and to support their long-term effects.


Medical Student Medical Education Empathic Concern Mirror Neuron System Health Care Delivery System 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Research in Medical Education and Health CareJefferson Medical CollegePhiladelphia

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