Empathy in clinical practice: A qualitative study of early medical practitioners and educators

Sonia Ijaz Haider, Qamar Riaz, Roger Christopher Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To explore the reasons for decline in empathy among physicians and to identify strategies for fostering empathetic clinical practice. Methods: The qualitative study was conducted at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, from February to June 2017, and comprised focus group discussions involving separate sessions with medical students, residents and clinical teachers. Content analysis was used to analyse the verbatim transcripts for identification of codes which led to derivation of themes from the data. Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research was used to assess the quality of the study. Results: Of the 109 subjects, 57(52.3%) were medical students, 30(27.5%) residents and 22(20.2%) clinical teachers. Of the 9 focus group discussions, 4(44.4%) were held with the students, 3(33.3%) with residents and 2(22.2%) with the teachers. Four themes that generated were delineating empathetic clinical practice, reasons for decline, challenges for promoting empathetic clinical practice, and recommendations for developing and facilitating empathetic clinical practice. All the participants unanimously agreed that there was a decline in empathetic clinical practice. Primary challenges included increased workload and time constraints inhibiting empathetic practice. Conclusion: It is essential to teach empathetic clinic practice to students and residents during medical training while continuous professional development should reinforce the significance of empathetic clinical practice among medical practitioners and educators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-122
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Pakistan Medical Association
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Clinical practice
  • Clinical teachers
  • Empathy
  • Focus group discussions
  • Health professionals


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