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EmpathyFrom Bench to Bedside$
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Jean Decety

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016612

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016612.001.0001

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The Paradox of Teaching Empathy in Medical Education

The Paradox of Teaching Empathy in Medical Education

(p.274) (p.275) 16 The Paradox of Teaching Empathy in Medical Education

Johanna Shapiro

The MIT Press

This chapter focuses on the reasons why empathy has not been successfully incorporated into medicine despite studies indicating its importance in medicine. The practitioners’ focus on objectivity in responding to a patient’s suffering, detaching themselves from personal feelings with patients, burnout, and compassion fatigue are some of the reasons listed that create a problem in the successful incorporation of empathy in medicine. The chapter explores the unintended consequences of incorporating empathy into the medical education curriculum, including the exercise of fake empathy by medical students to be successful in their examination, the lack of emotional engagement by students with patients with unfamiliar instances, and the devaluation of empathy. It presents methods for encouraging medical students to learn and exercise empathy.

Keywords:   empathy, medicine, medical students, compassion fatigue, burnout, objectivity, medical education

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