Psychometrics of the student version of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE-S) in final-year medical students in Johannesburg in 2008

Kantilal Vallabh


Background. In selecting medical students for medical school, there is interest in predictors other than examination scores. This is motivated by the concern that the selection processes, mainly based on academic attainment, appear to disadvantage some applicants. There is increasing recognition that empathy and communicating skills are important for doctors.
Aims. To assess empathy levels in final-year medical students in Johannesburg and to examine the psychometrics of the student version of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE-S).
Methods. Empathy level was assessed in 158 final-year medical students using the JSPE-S at the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School in 2008. Gender, age and prior degree/s were used as confounders.
Results. The mean empathy score in final-year medical students was 107 (standard deviation (SD) 10.9). The mean empathy score was higher in 95 female students than in 63 male students (109 SD 9.8 v. 104 SD 12) (t=2.51; p<0.013). The inter-item score correlations were positive and statistically significant. Cronbach’s coefficient alpha was 0.79. Factor analysis using principal component analysis identified three factors that are generally consistent with the grand conceptual aspects of the notion of empathy in the JSPE-S (viz. perspective taking, compassionate care and standing in the patient’s shoes).
Conclusion. The results indicate that the mean empathy scores and psychometrics of the JSPE-S among final-year medical students in Johannesburg, South Africa are similar to studies published among students in America and Europe and that the scores are higher than those published in studies of students in Asia.

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Kantilal Vallabh,

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Medical Education, Empathy

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2011;4(2):63.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-10-04
Date published: 2011-12-15

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