Empathy in healthcare settings

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Scott, Helen

Empathy is an important concept associated with positive outcomes for healthcare practitioners and their patients. In order to identify the best methods to develop and sustain empathy in healthcare professionals there is a need for greater understanding of the antecedents and behaviours involved in empathic responding towards patients.\ud \ud This thesis used a multidimensional model of empathy as a guide for research aimed at understanding the antecedents and behaviours involved in empathic interactions between patients and healthcare professionals. Studies one to three were cross sectional and quantitative in design. Studies one and two investigated relationships between self-reported empathy, personality and emotional intelligence. Findings suggested that (1) perspective taking and empathic concern were closely associated with agreeableness and extraversion, and also loaded on to the single factor of emotional intelligence (2) fantasy was associated with with openness to experience but not emotional intelligence, and (3) personal distress was positively related to neuroticism and negatively related to emotional intelligence. Study three went on to investigate the relationships between emotional intelligence, propensity to empathise and empathic behaviour amongst doctors. Propensity to empathise was positively related to observer ratings of empathic behaviour, but not when doctors had qualified in a different country. finally, study four qualitatively examined empathy in the healthcare context, from patients' perspectives. Situational and patient characteristics were also identified as antecedents to empathy, further relating to employee engagement and work design. The specific behaviours associated with empathy as judged by patients included helping and prosocial behaviours. Implications for the development of empathy are discussed in terms of possible training , development and work design interventions. Finally areas for future research are identified.
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