Exploring the missing link – Empathy among dental students: An institutional cross‑sectional survey

Vikram Pal Aggarwal, Robin Garg, Nikita Goyal, Puneet Kaur, Sakshi Singhal, Nancy Singla, Deeksha Gijwani, Aditi Sharma


Background: Empathy plays an important role in healthy dentist and patient relationship. Hence, the aim of the study is to (a) to measure the self‑reported empathy levels among dental undergraduate and postgraduate students. (b) To review the trend of changes in empathy level with experience, age, and gender among dental undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Materials and Methods: This cross‑sectional, questionnaire‑based study was carried out in two private dental institutions situated in Sri Ganganagar, India, with a sample size of 978. Data were obtained from the 1st to final year (BDS), interns, and postgraduate students from January to March

2015. An empathy level of students was assessed by the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy – Health Profession Students Version Questionnaire. An exploratory factor analysis using Kaiser’s criteria was undertaken to appraise the construct validity and dimensionality. Based on the results of the factor analysis, three factors were selected; labeled as “perspective taking,” “compassionate care,” and “standing in patient’s shoes.”

Results: The majority of the students was female in a equivalent ratio of 1338:618. There were significant differences in empathy scores by gender and age (P < 0.01). The lowest and highest mean empathy scores were found in postgraduate (mean = 108.77, standard deviation [SD] =9.12) and 1st year (mean = 117.23, SD = 14.19) dental students, respectively.

Conclusion: Dental educators should consider the likely decline in empathy among students as early as possible and adopt communication teaching strategies to promote the development of empathy and reduce the risk of further decline.

Key Words: Dental education, dentist, empathy, sympathy


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