Does empathy change during undergraduate medical education? - A meta-analysis.

V Spatoula, E Panagopoulou, A Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The aim of this meta-analysis was to synthesize the existing evidence examining how empathy changes during undergraduate medical education and assess whether different types of measures produce different results.

Method: Three electronic bibliographic databases were last searched on 28 November 2018. Quantitative studies including a measure of empathy in medical undergraduate students and a comparison of the results among the different years of study were included. All analyses were guided by Lipsey and Wilson and conducted using Comprehensive Meta-Analysis software.

Results: The overall sample size for the twelve studies (n = 12) was 4906 participants. Results indicate a significant effect (g = 0.487, SE = 0.113, 95% CI = 0.265, 0.709), suggesting that there is moderate evidence that empathy scores changed. Studies using the Jefferson’s Scale for Physician Empathy (JSPE) reported higher effect sizes (g = 0.834, SE = 0.219, 95% CI = 0.406, 1.263), while the effect size for studies using other scales was smaller and non-significant (g = 0.099, SE = 0.052, 95% CI = −0.003, 0.201).

Conclusions: This review indicated significant evidence that self-ratings of empathy changed across the years of medical education. However, we need to be cautious because this effect was only significant when empathy was assessed using the JSPE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-904
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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