Associations of medical student empathy with clinical competence

Rachel Casas, Ziming Xuan, Angela H. Jackson, Lorraine E. Stanfield, Nanette C. Harvey, Daniel C. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective Empathy is a crucial skill for medical students that can be difficult to evaluate. We examined if self-reported empathy in medical students was associated with clinical competence. Methods This study combined cross-sectional data from four consecutive years of medical students (N = 590) from the Boston University School of Medicine. We used regression analysis to evaluate if self-reported empathy (Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE)) predicted scores in clinical clerkships, United States Medical Licensing Examinations, and Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs). We separately analyzed overall and OSCE communication scores based on interpersonal skills reported by standardized patients. We controlled for age, gender, debt, and specialty affinity. Results JSPE scores of medical students were positively associated with OSCE communication scores, and remained significant when controlling for demographics. We found that JSPE score was also predictive of overall OSCE scores, but this relationship was confounded by gender and age. JSPE scores were associated with performance in the Pediatrics clerkship, but not other clerkships or standardized tests. Conclusion JSPE scores were positively associated with OSCE communication scores in medical students. Practice implications This study supports that self-reported empathy may predict OSCE performance, but further research is needed to examine differences by gender and age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-747
Number of pages6
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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