Empathy, better patient care, and how interprofessional education can help

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Date of Original Version



Interprofessional education (IPE) has been promoted as one way to prepare healthcare students for interprofessional encounters they might experience in the workplace. However, the link between IPE, interprofessional care in the workforce, and better patient outcomes is tenuous, perhaps in part due to the inability of IPE programs to adequately address barriers associated with interprofessional care (e.g., power differentials, role disputes). Empathy, or understanding the experiences of others, has emerged as a critical tool to breaking down barriers inherent to working in teams. Given the evidence connecting empathy to stronger team collaboration and better patient care, researchers significantly revamped programming from a prior training called Interprofessional Education for Complex Neurological Cases (IPE Neuro) to enhance empathy, foster stronger team collaboration, and improve information integration among participants. In this improved three-session program, participants from seven different professions were grouped into teams, assessed a patient volunteer with neurological disorder, and created and presented an integrated, patient-centric treatment plan. Students (N = 31) were asked to report general empathy levels, as well as attitudes, team skills, and readiness toward interprofessional care, before and after the program. We conducted paired samples t-tests and thematic analysis to analyze the data. Results showed that participants reported higher empathy levels, more positive attitudes, and greater team skills pre- to posttest with moderate to large effects. Results bolster IPE Neuro programming as one approach to prepare students for interprofessional care while underscoring the potential implications of IPE to improve empathy levels of healthcare professionals.

Publication Title

Journal of Interprofessional Care