University of Oulu

Paloniemi, E., Mikkola, I., Vatjus, R. et al. Measures of empathy and the capacity for self-reflection in dental and medical students. BMC Med Educ 21, 114 (2021).

Measures of empathy and the capacity for self-reflection in dental and medical students

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Author: Paloniemi, Elina1,2; Mikkola, Ilona2; Vatjus, Ritva1;
Organizations: 1Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Rovaniemi Health Center, Rovaniemi, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-04-26


Background: Empathy and self-reflection have been studied among medical students, but fewer studies have examined the presence of these attributes among dental students and investigated the correlation between empathy and self-reflection.

Methods: First-year dental and medical students (n = 198) beginning their studies at the University of Oulu, Finland in August 2017 participated in this study, which was conducted via an internet-based questionnaire. Data were collected on personal characteristics and scores on Davis’s Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) and Roberts’s Self Reflection and Insight Scale (SRIS).

Results: Differences in IRI scores between dental and medical students were significant only in male students and in two IRI domains. Mean (SD) scores for male dental and medical students were personal distress, 8.2 (4.0) and 10.7 (3.1) (p = 0.022); empathic concern, 15.0 (4.0) and 16.9 (3.5) (p = 0.054). Mean SRIS scores did not differ between sexes or training programs. Positive correlations (r = − 0.3–0.65) were observed between some empathy and self-reflection subscales.

Conclusions: A lower degree of empathy was observed among male dental students than in male medical students. A positive correlation between empathy and self-reflection was demonstrated in both study groups and sexes. However, more research in this field is warranted.

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Series: BMC medical education
ISSN: 1472-6920
ISSN-E: 1472-6920
ISSN-L: 1472-6920
Volume: 21
Issue: 1
Article number: 114
DOI: 10.1186/s12909-021-02549-3
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
3141 Health care science
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