Objectives: This study was designed to explore how guided reflective writing could evoke empathy and reflection in a group of practicing physicians.
Methods: Total participants recruited included 40 staff physicians at Cleveland Clinic, a tertiary care academic medical center. Twenty physicians (intervention group) were assigned to participate in a 6-session faculty development program introducing narrative medicine and engaging in guided reflective writing. Ten physicians (comparison group 1) received the assigned course reading materials but did not participate in the course sessions. Ten physicians (comparison group 2) neither received the reading materials nor participated in the sessions. Qualitative analysis of the physicians' reflective writings was performed to identify major themes. The Jefferson Scale of Empathy was administered three times during the course.
Results: Qualitative analysis of physicians' writings showed themes of both compassionate solidarity and detached concern. Exploration of negative emotions occurred more frequently than positive ones. The most common writing style was case presentation. A total of 36 staff physicians completed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy. Results of statistical analysis suggested an improvement in empathy in the intervention group at the end of the course (p < 0 .05).
Conclusions: These results suggest a faculty development program using guided narrative writing can promote reflection and may enhance empathy among practicing physicians. These findings should encourage medical educators to design additional strategies for enhancing reflection and empathic behavior in trainees and specifically practicing physicians who can role model these behaviors to achieve the ultimate goal of improving the quality of patient care.
Recommended CitationMisra-Hebert, Anita D.; Isaacson, J. Harry; Kohn, Martin; Hull, Alan L.; Hojat, Mohammadreza; Papp, Klara K.; and Calabrese, Leonard, "Improving empathy of physicians through guided reflective writing" (2012). Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Faculty Papers. Paper 51.
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