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Understanding family practice residents’ conceptualization and experience of empathy Van Tongeren, Carlene

Abstract

A major problem in the medical profession is a lack of empathic communication skills in doctor-patient interactions. Studies have illustrated medical students’ ability to learn effective communication skills, yet have found their empathy for patients to decline during the senior years of medical school and residency. Focus group interviews were conducted with Family Practice Residents from the University of British Columbia Medical School Program to investigate how they conceptualize and experience empathy in the medical context in order to better understand the processes involved in learning and understanding empathy as well as the barriers in transferring these skills to clinical practice. Themes were generated under five main categories including "The Characteristics of Empathy in the Medical Context"; "The Value of Empathy in the Medical Context"; "The Facilitating Factors in the Development of Empathy"; "The Hindering Factors in the Development of Empathy"; "The Challenging Factors in the Use of Empathy". Suggestions were developed regarding the implications of these findings for clinical training and practice as well as future research.

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