Empathy maps in communication skills training

Patrick Cairns, India Pinker, Andrew Ward, Evelyn Watson, Anita Laidlaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Empathy is a cornerstone of patient-centred care. However, empathy levels among health care professionals and medical students are currently suboptimal. An empathy map is a tool which aids in understanding another person’s perspective. Empathy maps have up until now not been used in a medical education setting.

To assess the attitudes towards, applicability and usefulness of empathy maps as part of medical student’s communication skills training.

Empathy map training was introduced to first-year medical student communication skills training at two UK-based medical schools. Twenty-eight participants in total agreed to be interviewed about their experiences using the empathy map, including sixteen students and twelve patient partners who assisted with communication skills training.

Medical students and patient partners perceive value in empathy map training. Medical students stated that the empathy map training impacted on their views of empathy and patient-centredness by highlighting the importance of patient-centred care. Medical students and patient partners enjoyed the experience of completing the empathy map and had suggestions for how it could be improved in the future.

Empathy maps could provide a cost-effective way to encourage empathic and patient-centred care in medical education. Furthermore, there is no reason why empathy maps would not aid in any caring profession. Further research is needed to confirm that empathy maps do increase empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-146
Number of pages5
JournalThe Clinical Teacher
Issue number2
Early online date9 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Research Funding
Association for the Study of Medical Education. Grant Number: Excellent Medical Education Joint ASME/GMC Award 2
University of St Andrews. Grant Number: MD14036


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