Empathy Levels of Students Entering US Paramedic Education Programs

David I. Page, MS, NRP; L. Michael Bowen, NRP; Luke Stanke, PhDc; Brett Williams PhD

Evaluation of the affective domain is an essential component of paramedic program accreditation in the United States. Empathy is an essential affective competency that graduating paramedic students are often required to display. Empathy has also been tied to patient satisfaction, greater diagnostic accuracy, and reduced rates of clinical errors. Previous studies have described empathy levels in Australian paramedic students and healthcare providers in general, using the previously validated Jefferson Scale of Empathy – Health Profession Student version (JSEHPS) by Williams, et al (2015).

Matriculating US paramedic students will display similar levels of empathy to those of Australian paramedic students.

Students enrolling in paramedic programs participating in Fisdap, a national online testing cooperative community, and completing the Fisdap Entrance Exam (EE) were asked to participate in this prospective cross-sectional sample of convenience. Participating students completed the same JSE-HPS that has previously been used in Australia and by healthcare students in general. A t-test was used to compare US JSE-HPS values to those reported by Williams.

A total of 606 consenting US paramedic students from 61 geographically diverse programs completed the JSE-HPS between August 15, 2013, and March 27, 2015. The mean score for the US cohort was 110.00 (SD=13.99), compared to a mean of 108.60 (SD=12.50) for the Australian cohort. Results of the t-test suggest a statistically significant difference in empathy scores between the two groups (t=2.46, p=.014).
Table 1: displays the JSE-HPS summary statistics for the Fisdap and Williams, et al studies.
 Williams, et alFisdap

US paramedic students in this sample displayed higher levels of empathy than previously reported levels from their Australian counterparts. While these levels appear similar to those in other healthcare professions, more research is needed to determine if they are representative of the population of practicing paramedics in general and what influence this may have on patient outcomes.