Levels of empathy in undergraduate midwifery students: An Australian cross-sectional study
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Objective This exploratory study investigated empathy and attitudes towards specific medical conditions, two important aspects of the midwife–woman relationship, amongst undergraduate midwifery students at one university. Method Fifty-two Bachelor of Midwifery students across three years of the course completed questionnaires, the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy-Health Professional (JSPE-HP) version and the Medical Condition Regard Scale (MCRS). Both the JSPE-HP and the MCRS are standardised, self-report questionnaires with established reliability and validity. Findings An overall respectable level of empathy was measured, which was shown to increase consistently and substantially with each year level of the student undergraduate program. Attitudes to selected diagnoses were very good with the exception being substance abuse, which received a significantly lower mean. Conclusion The results of this study indicate that the Bachelor of Midwifery course, or studying midwifery, has a positive effect on students’ empathy. Low results in participants’ attitudes towards patients presenting with substance abuse raises concern that students may harbour prejudice that could impinge upon their professional practice and the way in which they care for these mothers. Hence, this aspect in particular may need further development within midwifery curriculum development. Further research around other conditions may extend on our understandings of empathy and attitudes in midwifery students and practitioners.
Women and Birth
Nursing not elsewhere classified