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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 62-66

Using role-plays as an empathy education tool for ophthalmology postgraduate

1 Department of Ophthalmology, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India
2 LVP Eye Institute, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, India

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Kirti Singh
Department of Ophthalmology, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijabmr.IJABMR_145_17

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Purpose: To assess the role of an “empathy sensitizing module” (ESM) in ophthalmology postgraduates in promoting effective empathetic communication. Methodology: Thirty-nine ophthalmology postgraduates were taught effective empathetic communication using specially designed module, comprising of five illustrative role-plays. We evaluated the impact of the training by (a) self-assessment of empathy quotient by residents using Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE scale) before and 6 weeks after ESM training and (b) nonparticipant observation (NPO) by trained faculty in real-life settings over the next 4 months. A peer-validated, self-designed checklist was used for NPO. The change in score was analyzed using Student's paired t-test. The faculty observed the use of empathy in real-life patient encounters of the trainees over the next 6 months. In addition, secondary qualitative data were collected and analyzed to assess the impact of the module on other stakeholders such as the role-playing undergraduate students and core faculty. Results: Pretraining assessment revealed that concept of empathy during patient communication was understood by only 10% students. PostESM training, the self-rated mean empathy score, on JSE, significantly increased from 95.9 to 106.7 (of a maximum of 140). This was also confirmed by a significant improvement in externally rated empathy and soft skills scores (from 29.3 to 39.1; of a maximum of 55) using the NPO tool. Focus group discussion was done on the continued display of empathy by the trainees in real-life situation over 6 months of observation by the faculty. The group agreed that there was a gradual attrition of initial gain in empathy behavior over the observation period of 6 months. The spillover benefits of the training process were observed among the role-playing undergraduates as well. A thematic analysis of their reflections on the process revealed a substantial change with an improved understanding of effective communication. Conclusions: There is a definite scope for introducing empathetic communication in medical training. Empathetic communication can be improved by effective training in a contextual manner with a need for regular reinforcement. Sensitization at all levels including the faculty is required to implement effective communication skills in medical profession.

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