Strong correlations between empathy, emotional intelligence, and personality traits among podiatric medical students: A cross-sectional study
BACKGROUND:The ability of health-care providers to demonstrate empathy toward their patients results in a number of positive outcomes improving the quality of care. In addition, a provider's level of emotional intelligence (EI) can further the doctor-patient relationship, stimulating a more personalized and comprehensive manner of treating patients. Furthermore, personality traits of a clinician may positively or negatively influence that relationship, as well as clinical outcomes. This study was designed to evaluate empathy levels in podiatric medical students in a 4-year doctoral program. Moreover, this study aimed to determine whether EI, personality traits, and demographic variables exhibit correlations with the observed empathy patterns. METHODS:This cross-sectional study collected data using an anonymous web-based survey completed by 150 students registered at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. There were four survey sections: (1) demographics, (2) empathy (measured by the Jefferson Scale of Physicians' Empathy), (3) EI (measured by the Assessing Emotions Scale), and (4) personality traits (measured by the NEO-Five-Factor Inventory-3). RESULTS:Empathy levels were significantly correlated with EI scores (r = 0.62, n = 150, P< 0.0001). All the five domains of personality were also shown to correlate with empathy scores, as well as with EI scores. With respect to demographics, Asian-American students had lower mean empathy scores than students of other races (P = 0.0018), females had higher mean empathy scores compared to men (P = 0.001), and undergraduate grade point average correlated with empathy scores in a nonmonotonic fashion (P = 0.0269). DISCUSSION/CONCLUSIONS:When measuring the variables, it was evident that there was a strong correlation between empathy, EI, and personality in podiatric medical students. Given the suggested importance and effect of such qualities on patient care, these findings may serve as guidance for possible amendments and warranted curriculum initiatives in medical education.