Background: Even though enhancing empathy in healthcare education is a critical component of delivering better care to patients, the erosion of empathy has been frequently reported, especially when the curriculum transitions to clinical training. However, some studies have questioned the significance and frequency of this decline in empathy. Thus, this study determined whether postgraduate clinical training reduced dental trainees’ empathy.
Methods: This study included 64 trainee dentists at Okayama University Hospital and 13 simulated patients (SPs). The trainee dentists completed the Japanese version of the Jefferson Scale of Empathy for health professionals immediately before conducting initial medical interviews with SPs twice, at the beginning and the end of their clinical training. The SPs evaluated the trainees’ communication using an assessment questionnaire immediately after the interviews. The videotaped dialogue in interview was analyzed using the Roter Interaction Analysis System.
Results: Sustained levels of trainees’ self-reported empathy, decreased communication behavior in emotional responsiveness for trainees, and unchanged SPs’ assessment of trainees’ communication were found when comparing results from the beginning and the end of the training.
Conclusions: Overall, one-year postgraduate dental training neither reduced nor increased the empathy of the trainees. Providing regular educational support may help trainees to foster their empathy.