Background: Empathy in healthcare delivery in an essential component to providing high-quality patient care. Empathy in paramedics and paramedic students has been subject to limited study to date. This study aimed to determine the empathy levels demonstrated by first year paramedic students over the course of their first year of study.
Methods: This study employed a longitudinal design of a convenience sample of first year paramedic students in community college programs in Ontario, Canada. The Medical Condition Regard Scale (MCRS) was used to measure empathy levels across four medical conditions: intellectual disability, suicide attempt, substance abuse, and mental health emergency. Surveys were conducted three times approximately 2-3 months apart; before first semester field placements (Nov/17), after first semester field placements (Jan/18) and near the end of second semester field placements (Mar/18).
Results: A total of 20 students completed all three surveys. Females, respondents aged 22-24, and participants with previous post-secondary education demonstrated higher mean empathy scores than their counterparts. Substance abuse was associated with the lowest mean empathy score for every demographic. Mean scores for intellectual disability, attempted suicide and mental health emergency decreased from the first survey to the last. Mean scores for substance abuse increased from 43.3 (SD+/- 8,2) to 46.45 (SD +/-7.04).
Conclusion: Results from this study suggest that in general, empathy levels among paramedic students decline over the course of their education. Male paramedic students are less empathetic than their female counterparts, and those with previous post-secondary education displayed higher mean empathy scores. The findings in this research support previous findings, and suggest that paramedic education programs may benefit from the inclusion of additional empathy training and education.
Pagano, Alberto; Robinson, Kate; Ricketts, Chris; Cundy Jones, Jenalyn; Henderson, Lisa; Cartwright, Wes; and Batt, Alan M., "Empathy Levels in Canadian Paramedic Students: A Longitudinal Study" (2019). Faculty & Staff Publications - Public Safety. 23.