Empathy levels in physiotherapy students: a four-year longitudinal study

Physiother Theory Pract. 2022 Sep 11:1-6. doi: 10.1080/09593985.2022.2122916. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Empathy is a key value in health-related occupations such as physiotherapy.

PURPOSE: This longitudinal study aimed to determine the empathy levels of students in a four-year bachelor of physiotherapy program.

METHODS: A total of 120 physiotherapy students at a non-governmental university in Istanbul participated in the study between 2016 and 2019. The Turkish adaptation of the student version of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy was used. Empathy scores were compared according to year of study and gender.

RESULTS: Most participants were women (n = 101, 84.2%). Empathy scores differed by years of study (p < .001) being highest in the first year and lowest in the fourth year. There was no difference in empathy scores between women and men (p = .26).

CONCLUSION: This is the first longitudinal study to contribute data on empathy levels in Turkish physiotherapy students. The decline in empathy seen in fourth-year physiotherapy students is associated more with the academic program and clinical practice than with any other factor. Further studies are warranted to explore why there are variations in empathy levels in physiotherapy students during their education. Ensuring students develop awareness and skills related to empathy during their undergraduate studies could result in a higher quality of care early in their professional practice.

PMID:36093851 | DOI:10.1080/09593985.2022.2122916

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