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The effect of a structured empathy course on the students of a medical and a nursing school


Celale Tangül Ozcan, Psychiatric Nursing Department, School of Nursing, Gulhane Military Medical Academy, Etlik-Ankara 06010, Turkey; Tel: +90-312-304-39 48; Fax: +90-312-304-39-00; E-mail:


OZCAN C.T., OFLAZ F. & BAKIR B. (2012) The effect of a structured empathy course on the students of a medical and a nursing school. International Nursing Review

Aim:  The study aims to determine the effect of an empathy course for medical and nursing school students in one university in Turkey. Being able to relate to others empathetically is important for health professionals who need to develop therapeutic relationships with people who are sick, weak, sensitive and vulnerable. Professionals need empathic communication skills and professionalism not only for patients and their families but also for colleagues and other members of the health team.

Method:  All first year students (257) from a medical and a nursing school in one Turkish university in 2008–2009 and 2009–2010 were enrolled to the study. The course included 10 h of lectures on empathy and communication skills given through five consecutive weeks with 2 h in a week in the first year of both schools. Data were collected by using the Empathic Communication Skills Scale (ECSS), and the Empathic Tendency Scale (ETS) before and after the course. There were 143 medical students and 83 nursing students (total: 226, 88%) who completed the ECSS and ETS in a pre-/post-test study.

Findings:  Results demonstrated that all students received significantly higher scores for the final application than for initial scores on both scales. This implied that the targeted educational programme could have a positive effect on learning empathy and gaining empathy skills and tendency.

Conclusion:  Effective educational programmes might facilitate and improve empathic skills and empathic tendency of medical and nursing students, and both male and female students benefitted from the empathy course.