Scholar track - Professionalisation and empathy

The session take place 11.00 - 12.00 at the stage in the foyer area on level 3, Aula Medica

Session Chair: Maria Watter


Empathic abilities can increase and be professionalized during medical education

Presenter – Astrid Seeberger

Background: An important aim of medical education is the development of professional empathy.  However, studies have demonstrated that empathy can decrease during medical education.

Methods: Using qualitative content analysis, we analyzed 69 critical reflective essays written by medical students at the end of their studies answering the question whether their empathy changed during medical education and if so, in which way and why.

Results: A majority of the students – almost ninety per cent - reported that their empathy had not decreased during medical education. Many of them reported an increase in empathy. They also described a professionalization process which resulted in an ability to meet patients with preserved empathy but without being overwhelmed by emotions. In addition, the students identified factors which either promoted or inhibited the development of their empathy. Education-associated promoters were meetings with patients, positive role models and educational activities focusing on reflection and self-awareness. Education-associated inhibitors were empathy-hostile medical culture and lack of professional competence.

Summary and conclusion: Medical students describe preserved and professionalized empathy during education, despite presence of empathy-inhibiting factors. This finding might be due to the presence of stronger promoting factors or to the fact that educational activities might result in a decreased susceptibility to empathy-decreasing circumstances.

Authors: Astrid Seeberger, Annalena Lönn, Håkan Hult, Maria Weurlander, Annika Wernerson
Contact Person Astrid Seeberger
Department: CLINTEC
University: Karolinska Institutet

The struggle for professionalization - students' experiences of emotionally challenging situations during medical school

Presenter: Annika Wernerson

Background: The professionalization process is an important part of medical education. During clinical placements, students encounter different situations that can be emotionally challenging. The aim of this study was to investigate how medical students manage such situations and what they learn during the process.

Methods and Materials: 86 medical students described during their last semester situations they perceived as being emotionally challenging and if and how their ability to manage these situations had changed during medical school. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data.

Results: Medical students´ main concern seems to be the struggle to achieve a proffesional approach, eg staying focused in a demanding situation and maintaining the ability to show empathy. Active reflection and debriefing are important when resolving the main concern. Other strategies are to expose oneself to distressful situations and search for role models. In this process, students get insights about how they can relate to patients and medical staff and learn about their own needs in order to cope.

Conclusion: Emotionally challenging situations evoke feelings important to manage to become a professional. Students take an active part in this process and important learning outcomes are insights about one´s own reactions, shortcomings and needs. Increased knowledge about this process may help faculty and supervisors to better support students in this challenge.

Authors: Annalena Lönn; Maria Weurlander; Håkan Hult; Astrid Seeberger; Robert Thornberg; Annika Wernerson
Contact person: Annalena Lönn
Department: CLINTEC
University: Karolinska Institutet

Facilitating Affective Elements in Learning - in a Palliative Care Context

Presenter - Janet Mattsson

Aim: The aim of this study was to explore ways clinical supervisors facilitate the learning of the affective elements of professional competence in a clinical palliative care environment. The secondary aim was to advocate for and raise awareness of the importance of the affective domain in medical education.

Background: A clinical palliative care learning environment has been reported to be emotionally challenging. The affective and transformative learning processes taking place require special support. However, little is known about how clinical supervisors facilitate this learning processes.

Design: A qualitative, explorative study was designed to capture supervisors' perceptions of their supervision using semi-structured interviews. Six experienced clinical supervisors working within a palliative care context were recruited using convenience sampling. Data were analyzed using inductive content analysis.

Results: The affective elements were viewed as essential for learning, clinical supervision, and professional competency. Supervisors use a variety of different ways of facilitation. Four main themes were identified; building a relationship, creating space for learning, ca pedagogical environment, and Mirroring.

Authours: Anina Kangas-Niemi, Katri Manninen, Janet Mattsson
Contact Person: Janet Mattsson
Department: Department of Health Sciences and Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, LIME
University: Karolinska Institutet