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Can empathy be taught? A cross-sectional survey assessing training to deliver the diagnosis of end stage renal disease

Abstract : Background: Receiving the diagnosis of kidney failure has a major impact on patients. Yet, the way in which this diagnosis should be delivered is not formally taught within our medical curriculum. To fill this gap we set up a training course of kidney failure diagnosis delivery for nephrology trainees since 2016. This study assessed the effectiveness of this educational intervention. Methods: The primary outcome was change in the empathy score immediately after the training session and several months afterward, based on the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE). Self-reported change in clinical practice was also evaluated. As control groups, we assessed empathy levels in untrained nephrology trainees (n = 26) and senior nephrologists (n = 71). Later on (>6 months) we evaluated participants’ perception of changes in their clinical practice due to the training. Results: Six training sessions permitted to train 46 trainees. Most respondents (76%) considered the training to have a durable effect on their clinical practice. Average empathy scores were not significantly different in pre-trained trainees (average JSPE: 103.7 ± 11.4), untrained trainees (102.8 ± 16.4; P = 0.81) and senior nephrologists (107.2 ± 13.6; P = 0.15). Participants’ empathy score significantly improved after the training session (112.8 ± 13.9; P = 0.003). This improvement was sustained several months afterwards (average JSPE 110.5 ± 10.8; P = 0.04). Conclusion: A single 4-hour training session can have long lasting impact on empathy and clinical practice of participants. Willingness to listen, empathy and kindness are thought to be innate and instinctive skills, but they can be acquired and should be taught.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 21, 2021 - 3:59:10 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, June 26, 2022 - 9:21:27 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Wednesday, December 22, 2021 - 7:12:06 PM


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Alice Doreille, Eve Vilaine, Xavier Belenfant, Wided Tabbi, Ziad Massy, et al.. Can empathy be taught? A cross-sectional survey assessing training to deliver the diagnosis of end stage renal disease. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2021, 16 (9), pp.e0249956. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0249956⟩. ⟨hal-03350851⟩



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