Empathy and Empathic Communication: Nursing Student Perceptions of Program Effectiveness, Academic Experiences, and Competence
Type of DegreeDissertation
Leadership and Technology
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The purpose of this survey study was to examine the relationship between senior baccalaureate nursing student’s perceptions of their nursing program effectiveness in teaching them to empathically communicate with patients and family members and (a) attitudes toward empathy in patient care and (b) perceived competence as a result of instruction. Nursing program components, as measured by the researcher- designed Nursing Student Empathic Communication Questionnaire, were divided into the following five areas: academic exposure to patient care situations, curricular emphasis during the nursing program, perceived program effectiveness, perceived competence, and academic sources. Student attitudes toward empathy in patient care were measured by the JSPE Nursing Student Version R (Hojat, 2007). This instrument, developed by researchers at the Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care at Jefferson Medical College, contains 20 Likert-type questions that measure orientation or attitudes toward empathy in patient care. Another purpose of the study was to perform psychometric evaluation of the JSPE Nursing Student Version R to support the existence of empirical relationships among a set of variables determined in the literature to be associated with empathy. The examination of the underlying constructs of this measurement was important to this study because this data contributes to the construct validity of the instrument developed to measure nursing student’s attitudes toward empathy in patient care. The study was conducted using a survey design and data collection from September to November 2006. The population consisted of fourteen baccalaureate programs with CCNE accreditation, with a sample population of 600 nursing seniors. Results of the study showed through backward regression technique that the sub-component of academic exposure was the highest predictor of student attitudes toward empathy in patient care as measured by the JSPE Nursing Student Version R. Academic exposure accounted for 11.6% of the variance for student attitudes toward empathy in patient care. The subcomponent of academic exposure was also the highest predictor of perceived competence as a result of nursing program instruction. Academic exposure accounted for 19.1% of the variance of perceived competence as a result of nursing program instruction. A hierarchical regression analysis was used to examine the extent to which attitudes toward empathy were related to perceived competence after controlling for the influence of the four program components. These results showed that the four program components contributed 22%, with the addition of attitudes toward empathy in patient care contributing only 1.1%. Implications to nursing education underscore the importance of increased exposure to clinical patient- care situations and highlight the role of faculty feedback and remediation from both attitudes toward empathy and perceived competence perspectives.