Using Patient Perspective Sessions to Increase Empathy and Recall in Preclinical Medical Students

Tami Hendriksz, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: July 20, 2016

Accepted: July 26, 2016

Published: October 1, 2016

J Osteopath Med; 116(10): 662-666

Context: At the author’s institution, patient perspective sessions were added to the preclinical curricula, in which actual patients present their medical stories and experiences to large groups of first- and second-year medical students. This curricular approach was designed to help address concerns about limited patient interaction during these years, which could lead to empathy erosion, academic burnout, and poor memory retention.

Objectives: To determine whether patient perspective sessions conducted in the first and second years of medical school had an effect on students’ empathy toward patients and perceived retention of material.

Methods: In the summer of 2014, an anonymous electronic survey was sent to medical students in the class of 2016 who had completed the mandatory patient perspective curricula. The patient perspective sessions had started in the academic year of 2012-2013, and they involved real patients who presented their medical stories and experiences in the medical setting.

Results: Of 135 surveys sent, 43 completed surveys (32%) were returned. Twenty-seven respondents (89%) reported that the patient perspective sessions met the objective of “enhancing empathy toward the patient experience,” and 23 respondents (75%) reported that the sessions made the material easier to remember. Further, 24 respondents (91%) reported enjoying the sessions, and all respondents reported that they wanted the patient perspective sessions to continue.

Conclusions: Patient perspective sessions are a unique way to add more clinical exposure to the preclinical curriculum. These sessions have the potential to increase students’ empathy toward patients, to increase their retention of material, and to provide new perspective. Further, students reported enjoying the sessions, which can help decrease the potential for academic burnout.

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