Is empathy associated with a derived sense of meaning among resident physicians working with patients nearing the end of life on a hematology-oncology ward?

Conference Paper

28 Background: An association between empathy and physician-in-training based meaning derived from patient deaths has not been explored previously. If meaning is associated with empathy, an intervention to enhance meaning may counteract empathy decline and promote clinician resilience. This study sought to understand if empathy might be associated with the ability to find meaning in the clinical situations that residents face in oncology. Methods: Internal Medicine residents rotating on a Hematology/Oncology ward were asked “Do you derive a sense of meaning from working with dying patients? Yes or No.” The Interpersonal-Reactivity Index (IRI) was used to measure empathy and demographic information. Results: 64 responded (66.7% response rate). 43 (67.2%) derived a sense of meaning while 21 (32.8%) did not. The ‘meaning’ group empathy score (IRI) was 60.7 (SD 10.8) and the ‘no meaning’ group empathy score (IRI) was 51.7 (SD 11.5) (p < .01). Empathy subscale differences were notable for decreased cognitive empathy via the Fantasy Score (14.0 versus 9.9) (p < .01) and decreased affective empathy via the Empathic Concern scale (18.8 versus 15.9) (p < .05). Conclusions: The majority of physicians-in-training derived a sense of meaning from working with patients at the end of life and had significantly higher levels of empathy. The ability to impart meaning-finding has been demonstrated in patients and could be taught to physicians-in-training and lead to higher empathy levels. [Table: see text]

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • McFarland, DC; Komisar, J

Published Date

  • October 9, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 34 / 26_suppl

Start / End Page

  • 28 - 28

Published By

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-7755

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0732-183X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1200/jco.2016.34.26_suppl.28