Relationship Between Empathy and Other Affective Domains Among Student Pharmacists

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Conference Proceeding

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Objective: Student pharmacists must develop proficiency in affective competencies that are essential in delivery of patient-centered care. In our program, we explored the degree to which empathy may be an overarching feature for development in other affective areas. Objectives: (1) Explore how empathy changes longitudinally throughout training. (2) Evaluate relationships between students’ level of empathy and their development within other affective competencies.

Methods: Student development in affective domains was tracked for several years. Students were assessed annually using a battery of psychometrically-supported measures that evaluate different components of affective development. Each measure was locally-normed and scores were reported on a standard scale. Empathy was measured using the Kiersma-Chen Empathy Scale, alongside measures for professionalism, communication, leadership, moral reasoning, and emotional intelligence. Scores were evaluated using regression analyses, stratified by academic year. Effect sizes were calculated to gauge the degree of empathic development.

Results: Measurements from 471 students were included in this project. Regression models for empathy were statistically significant for each year, with R-squared values of 0.303 for P1s, 0.341 for P2s, 0.348 for P3s, and 0.350 for P4s. The affective domains most strongly associated with empathy were emotional intelligence and moral reasoning. Empathy scores increased with each year of training. The overall effect size for empathic development was positive but small (d=0.33).

Implications: The understanding of relationships between students’ empathy and affective competencies may motivate pharmacy educators to inculcate empathy-enhancing interventions into educational methods to help student pharmacists develop and reinforce affective behaviors and skills.



Poster presented at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, July 2019.

Abstract is published in American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education: Volume 83, Issue 5, Article 7654:

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