Nursing students' empathic communication: Role in recognizing and treating chronic pain patients

Majse Lind, Mary Kate Koch, Susan Bluck

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: A substantial body of research supports what many nurses know from experience: empathy is at the heart of providing quality care. The major objective of this study was to identify unique mechanisms through which higher empathy translates into greater intentions to treat patients in pain employing novel methodology. Methods: Using an ecologically-valid scenario methodology, student nurses (N = 156) reviewed the narrative of a patient in chronic pain. They completed standard, valid measures of empathy toward the patient, perception of the patient's pain, and intention to provide pain-relieving treatment. Nursing student's personality traits were assessed and perception of patients’ age and sex were experimentally manipulated. Results: Empathy was associated with higher intention to treat the patient in chronic pain irrespective of patients’ age or sex. A moderated-mediation analysis confirmed that nursing students with higher empathy perceived the patient in the scenario as being in greater pain. This was correspondingly associated with higher intention to provide treatment. Nursing students’ trait Extraversion was a moderator. Conclusion: Empathy not only improves rapport between patients and providers but is related to intentions to provide pain-relieving treatment. Practice implications: The clinical and educational importance of empathy in patient-provider relationships are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108236
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Volume123
ISSN0738-3991
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • Empathy
  • Intention to treat
  • Nursing education
  • Pain intervention

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