McKenna L, Boyle M, Brown T, Williams B, Molloy A, Lewis B, Molloy L. International Journal of Nursing Practice 2012; 18: 246–251
Levels of empathy in undergraduate nursing students
Empathy and absence of prejudice and stigma are instrumental in facilitating effective nurse–patient relations. This study assessed empathy levels and regard for specific medical conditions in undergraduate nursing students. A cross-sectional study was undertaken using paper-based versions of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) and Medical Condition Regard Scale (MCRS), along with a brief set of demographic questions. Participants reported good empathy levels on JSPE. Attitudes towards intellectual disability, chronic pain, acute mental illness and terminal illness rated well on MCRS. Attitudes towards substance abuse, however, were lower. There were no significant differences between age groups, gender or year level of study.
Overall results of this study were positive. Nursing students demonstrated acceptable empathy levels. Attitudes towards patients who abuse substances highlight an area that needs both further exploration and addressing. Attitudes towards mental health diagnoses were particularly favourable given that these often attract stigma and negative attitudes.