WMJ Vol 119: A Curriculum to Increase Empathy and Reduce Burnout
Purpose: Empathy is essential for good patient care. It underpins effective communication and high-quality, relationship-centered care. Empathy skills have been shown to decline with medical training, concordant with increasing physician distress and burnout.
Methods: We piloted a 6-month curriculum for interns (N = 27) during the 2015-2016 academic year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The course included: (1) review of literature on physician well-being and clinical empathy, (2) instruction on the neurobiology of empathy and compassion, (3) explanation of stress physiology and techniques for mitigating its effects, (4) humanities-informed techniques, and (5) introductions to growth mindset and mindful awareness. To measure effectiveness, we compared empathy and burnout scores before and after the course.
Results: The course was well-attended. Intern levels of burnout and empathy remained stable over the study period. In multivariable modeling, we found that for each session an intern attended, their emotional exhaustion declined by 3.65 points (P = 0.007), personal accomplishment increased by 2.69 points (P = 0.001), and empathic concern improved by 0.82 points (P = 0.066). The course was well-liked. Learners reported applying course content inside and outside of work and expressed variable preferences for content and teaching methods.
Conclusion: Skills in empathic and self-care can be taught together to reduce the decline of empathy and well-being that has been seen during internship. In this single-center pilot, resident physicians reported using these skills both inside and outside of work. Our curriculum has the potential to be adopted by other residency programs.
The target audience for this journal-based activity is healthcare providers caring for the people and communities of Wisconsin and beyond.
As a result of this journal-based activity, learners will be able to:
- Recognize that empathy and personal well-being includes skills that can be cultivated with training.
- Summarize how physician empathy and burnout relate to one another.
- Consider how humanities informed techniques can be used to train physicians and the healthcare team in empathic care as well as augment well-being.
It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin–Madison ICEP that the faculty, authors, planners, and other persons who may influence content of this CE activity disclose all relevant financial relationships with commercial interests* in order to allow CE staff to identify and resolve any potential conflicts of interest. Faculty must also disclose any planned discussions of unlabeled/unapproved uses of drugs or devices during the educational activity. For this educational activity all conflicts of interests have been resolved and detailed disclosures are listed below:
|Name of Individual||Individual's Role in Activity|
Name of Commercial Interest &
|Terese Bailey, BS||Accreditation Specialist||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
|Joanne Bernstein, MD, MS||Reviewer||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
|David Dwyer, PhD, RN, NE-BC||Reviewer||University of Wisconsin-Madison (Employment); Eskenazi Health (Spouse/Partner: Employment); Mayo Clinic (Spouse/Partner: Employment); Indiana University (Spouse/Partner: Grant)||No|
|Lisa M. Grant, DO||Author||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
|German Larrain, MD, FACC||Reviewer||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
|Leigh S. LoPresti, MD||Reviewer||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
|Mariah A. Quinn, MD, MPH||Author||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
|Emmanuel Sampene, PhD||Author||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
|Robert Treat, PhD||Editor||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
|Amy Zelenski, PhD||Author||No Relevant Financial Relationships to Disclose||No|
* The ACCME defines a commercial interest as any entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing health care goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients. The ACCME does not consider providers of clinical service directly to patients to be commercial interests.
|In support of improving patient care, this activity has been planned and implemented by the University of Wisconsin–Madison ICEP and the Wisconsin Medical Journal. The University of Wisconsin–Madison ICEP is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.|
Credit Designation Statements
American Medical Association (AMA)
The University of Wisconsin–Madison ICEP designates this journal-based CE activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
The University of Wisconsin–Madison ICEP designates this journal-based CE activity for a maximum of 1.0 ANCC contact hour.
Iowa Board of Nursing accepts ANCC contact hours for nursing continuing education requirements.
Continuing Education Units
The University of Wisconsin–Madison ICEP, as a member of the University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), authorizes this program for 0.1 continuing education units (CEUs) or 1 hour.
- 1.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
- 1.00 ANCC Contact Hours
- 1.00 University of Wisconsin–Madison Continuing Education Hours
- 1.00 Approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
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