The relationship between empathy and altruistic motivations in nursing studies: A multi-method study
Background. The efficient management of relational competences in healthcare professionals is crucial to ensure that a patient's treatment and care process is conducted positively. Empathy is a major component of the relational skills expected of health professionals. Knowledge of undergraduate healthcare students' empathic abilities is important for educators in designing specific and efficient educational programmes aimed at supporting or enhancing students' empathic competences. In this
... ences. In this study, we measured first-year undergraduate nursing students' attitudes towards professional empathy in clinical encounters. The students' motivations for entering nursing education were also evaluated. This study takes a multi-method approach based on the use of qualitative and quantitative tools to examine the association between students' positive attitudes towards the value of empathy in health professionals and their prosocial and altruistic motivations in choosing to engage in nursing studies.Methods. A multi-method study was performed with 77 first-year nursing students. The Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) – Health Professions Student Version was administered. Students' motivations for choosing nursing studies were detected through an open question and thematically analysed. Using explorative and confirmative factor analyses, a dimension reduction was conducted to identify subjects with prosocial and altruistic motivations. Finally, linear models were tested to examine specific associations between motivation and empathy.Results. Seven distinct themes distinguishing internal and external motivational factors were identified through the thematic analysis of students' answers regarding their choice of entering the nursing degree course. Female students gained higher scores on the empathy scale than their male counterparts. When students' age was considered, this difference was shown only for younger students, with young females' total scores being higher than those of young males. High empathy scores were positively associated with altruistic motivational factors. A negative correlation was found between external motivational factors and the scores of the Compassionate Care subscale of the JSE.Conclusions. Knowing the level of nursing students' empathy and their motivational factors for entering nursing studies is important for educators in order to implement training paths that enhance students' relational attitudes and skills and promote positive motivational aspects that are central to this profession.