Developing Empathy: Does Experience Through Simulation Improve Medical-Student Empathy?

Sebastian Koblar, Matthew Cranwell, Simon Koblar, Ben Carnell, Cherrie Galletly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: This study used a role-play experience of stroke to improve student empathy for patients with neurological deficits. Method: Participants were 4th- and 5th-year medical students (n = 62). Students worked in pairs, one as patient, and the other as carer/observer. To simulate middle cerebral artery infarction, the patient was fitted with a leg splint, their arm was placed in a sling with the hand taped closed, and they wore glasses that blocked half of their visual field in each eye to simulate homonymous hemianopia. The patient then attended to their daily duties and completed a list of tasks. All participants completed the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (student version) before and after the role-play exercise and wrote a reflection about their experience. Results: There was a statistically significant increase in mean empathy scores from baseline to post-participation. Students found the experience valuable and reported increased recognition of the time taken to complete tasks, receiving odd looks and stares, feeling judged, and greater understanding of stigma and of the experiences of people with disabilities. Conclusion: This role-play of a stroke experience improved medical-student empathy. Role-play experiences could be used more widely in clinical education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-36
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Science Educator
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Empathy
  • Medical education
  • Medical student
  • Neurological
  • Role-play
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Education

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