D Jeffrey, R Downie
Journal Issue: 
Volume 46: Issue 2: 2016


There is now a societal and cultural expectation that doctors and nurses should feel, and display, empathy for their patients. Many commentators argue that medical and nursing students should be taught empathy. Empathy, however, is difficult to define: it is not the same as kindness, as it implies a degree of psychological insight into what the patient is thinking or feeling. Empathy is seen by some as a form of emotional intelligence that can be systematically developed through teaching and positive role models. Here we debate the meaning of empathy, and whether it is truly a quality, or attribute, that can be taught.
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