Measuring Empathy Levels among Kurdish Medical Students in Erbil City, Iraq : Cross-sectional study

Awring M. Raof, Bervian A. Yassin


Objectives: Empathy is a crucial attribute within the physician-patient relationship. This study aimed to evaluate the empathy levels of students in the College of Medicine at Hawler Medical University (HMU) in Erbil city, Iraq. Methods: This cross-sectional study took place between January and May 2015 and included all medical undergraduates enrolled at HMU (n = 989). The validated self-administered English language version of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy-Student Version (JSPE-SV) was used to measure empathy levels. Students reported their conformity to each statement of the 20-item questionnaire on a 7-point Likert scale. Levels of empathy were considered directly relative to their final score. Results: A total of 927 students completed the questionnaire (response rate: 93.7%). The male-to-female ratio was 0.72:1 and the mean age was 21.3 ± 1.4 years. The mean empathy score was 101.9 ± 19.2. Female students had significantly higher empathy (P = 0.023) and more frequently chose people-oriented specialties (P = 0.001) than males. First-year students reported the highest mean score (112.9 ± 20.1) while fourth-year students had the lowest (92.7 ± 16.0). There was a significant decline in mean scores between first- and second-year male students (P = 0.020) and first- and fourth-year male students (P = 0.050). Students who chose people-oriented specialties had significantly higher scores than those who chose technology-oriented specialties (P = 0.002). Conclusion: The studied cohort of HMU students demonstrated low empathy levels. As such, the inclusion of empathy instruction in medical school curricula is recommended to promote professionalism and patient welfare.


Empathy; Attitudes; Medical Students; Physician-Patient Relations; Medical Education; Iraq.

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Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, PO Box 35, Postal Code 123, Al-Khod, Muscat, Oman

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