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Title: The effect of hospital volunteering on empathy in nursing and medical students
Authors: Barker, Mary-Ellen ;King, Jennie ;Mitchell, Brett ;Dawson, Amanda ;Crowfoot, Gary
Affliation: Central Coast Local Health District
Gosford Hospital
Issue Date: Feb-2024
Source: 31(1),34-39
Journal title: Collegian
Department: Nursing & Midwifery Directorate
Abstract: Abstract Background Empathic care benefits patients and healthcare providers. There is evidence of self-reported empathy decline among students in healthcare education. Hospital volunteering could assist undergraduate healthcare students to develop empathetic relationships with patients. Aim The study aimed to investigate the feasibility and effect of a hospital volunteering intervention on the empathy levels of undergraduate nursing and medical students. It further aimed to explore their experience of the intervention and determine student-identified areas for patient safety improvements. Design Pre–post-intervention study Setting A large outer metropolitan hospital in New South Wales, Australia. Participants Twenty-nine (n = 29) undergraduate nursing and medical students from an Australian university. Methods Students had an introductory experience of volunteering at their local district hospital through participation in the ‘Volunteer Taster Program’. The Jefferson Scale of Empathy-Health Professions Student questionnaire was used to measure student empathy scores pre and post program. Responses to open-ended questions were thematically analysed to evaluate student experiences and identify student-reported areas for patient safety improvements. Results Twenty-nine students (18 nursing, 11 medical) completed the program. Students had statistically significant improvements in post-intervention mean empathy scores 112.03 (95% CI 107.56, 116.5) to 117.38 (95% CI 113.76, 121.00) p < 0.001. Subgroup analysis identified a larger increase in empathy scores among medical students than nursing students. The thematic analysis revealed potential program benefits, including new perspectives of the patient experience, improved confidence in patient communication, a stronger professional identity, and a rewarding experience. Identified patient safety issues included concerns for patients’ emotional and physical well-being, and patient communication. Conclusions The Volunteer Taster Program is feasible and enabled nursing and medical students to connect with patients outside the sphere of clinical education. It appears to increase empathy levels in undergraduate students and could assist them to deliver empathetic, person-centred healthcare.
Publicaton type: Journal Article
Keywords: Nursing
Appears in Collections:Health Service Research

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