Empathy is a required attribute for all healthcare professionals and fundamental to quality patient care. There is compelling research demonstrating that the provision of healthcare devoid of empathy results in a wide range of negative emotional and physiological outcomes for patients. Further, healthcare professionals who practice without empathy are at heightened risk of depression, burnout and attrition.
Although it seems reasonable to assume that most healthcare students have an empathic disposition, evidence suggests that empathy levels often decline during the period of enrolment in an undergraduate health degree. Thus, explicit attention must be given to the development of empathy as a requisite skill for both healthcare practitioners and students.
The Virtual Empathy Museum (VEM) project was funded by an Australian Technology Network (ATN) Strategic Initiative Grant. The aims of the project were to:
1. Develop, implement, evaluate and disseminate a Virtual Empathy Museum (VEM) by collecting, creating and curating web-based, authentic and engaging empathy resources within a coherent pedagogical framework.
2. Improve healthcare practitioners’ and students’ empathy skills so that they are enabled to make a positive contribution to patient safety and quality care.
3. Increase sector wide commitment to integrating empathy development as a core component in healthcare programs and curricula.
4. Generate a robust and coherent body of evidence related to the teaching of empathy skills to healthcare students.