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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 109-116

Empathy assessment among medical doctors working at the university college hospital Ibadan, Nigeria

1 Department of Community Medicine, Family Medicine Unit, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan; Department of Family Medicine, University College Hospital Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
2 Department of Surgery, Federal Medical Centre Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria
3 Blossom Specialist Medical Centre, Ibadan, Nigeria
4 General Hospital Odan, Lagos, Nigeria
5 Hospital Management Board, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
6 Department of Medicine and Surgery, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Abimbola Margaret Obimakinde
Department of Community Medicine, Family Medicine Unit, Faculty of Public Health/Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan. Ibadan, Oyo State
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmhhb.jmhhb_190_21

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Background: Empathy is the competence of a physician to understand the patient's situation, perspective and feelings and to act on that understanding in a helpful therapeutic way. Empathy is the backbone of patient-physician communication in clinical care, it can be innate, learnt or acquired in the course of the medical career. This study, evaluated empathy and its correlates among medical doctors working in the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of 188 interns, resident and specialist doctors working at the University Hospital College, Ibadan in March-May 2018. Consecutive consenting doctors were given a self-administered questionnaire that collected information on sociodemography, work and empathy using the 20-items Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy. Data were analyzed using the SPSS version 23 and statistical significance was set at P < 0.05. Results: The majority of the respondents were male (60.1%), between 30 and 39 years (60.6%) old, married (60.6%) and Christians (91.5%). Many worked in the Internal Medicine Department (38.3%), were Senior-Resident doctors (41.0%) and of Yoruba (82.4%) ethnicity. Senior-Residents doctors ([120.2 ± 15.4]; P = 0.009) and Consultants ([117.8 ± 21.4]; P = 0.009) had highest empathy scores. Doctors who are raised in lower social status families, lacked ability in taking patient's perspective ([56.2 ± 12.2]; P = 0.046). Doctors in surgical-related specialities had lower empathy scores, those in medical-related specialities, especially Psychiatrists (127.1 ± 10.1) and Family Physicians (125.8 ± 7.9) had the highest scores (P = 0.034). Doctors who had never learnt about empathy had the lowest score in perspective-taking ([50.5 ± 30.4]; P = 0.041). Duration of practice and work-hours respectively correlated positively ([rs = 0.174]; P = 0.018) and negatively ([rs = −0.206]; P = 0.005) with empathy scores. Conclusions: Medical doctors possessed varying levels of empathy relative to their sociodemographic characteristics, the speciality of choice and level of expertise. Exposure to teachings on empathy and work-related challenges underscores empathic skills.

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