The Pedagogy of Clinical Empathy: Formation of the Physician
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Clinical empathy is a lively topic of discussion in the contemporary medical literature. Research indicates that empathetic physicians receive higher patient satisfaction ratings, as well as improved patient health outcomes, compared to non-empathetic clinicians. Consequently, clinical empathy appears to be instrumental in providing quality patient care. If empathy is essential for improving healthcare outcomes, should not medical students learn to be more empathetic? To address this question, we first explore the distinction between clinical sympathy and empathy. Then, two essays from the medical literature are used to compare the empathetic with the non-empathetic physician. Next, we examine the pedagogical issues involved in teaching empathy to premedical and medical students, as well as to residents. Finally, we conclude by discussing the imperative for training clinicians to deliver quality empathetic healthcare.