Advancing, promoting and sharing knowledge of health through excellence in teaching, clinical practice and research into the prevention and treatment of illness

Can a virtual learning module foster empathy in dental undergraduate students?

Anishchuk, S; Kubacki, A; Howell, Y; van Harten, MT; Yarascavitch, C; MacGiolla Phadraig, C (2023) Can a virtual learning module foster empathy in dental undergraduate students? Eur J Dent Educ, 27 (1). pp. 118-125. ISSN 1600-0579
SGUL Authors: Kubacki, Angela

PDF Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (475kB) | Preview


BACKGROUND: Empathy is an essential part of patient-centred health care, which positively benefits both patients and clinicians. There is little agreement regarding how best to design and deliver training for healthcare trainees to impart the skills and behaviours of clinical empathy. The study aimed to inform the field by sharing an educational intervention where we aimed to improve empathy amongst dental undergraduate students in Trinity College Dublin using a virtual learning module. METHODS: Adopting pre-post-repeat pre-experimental design, dental professional students completed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) for Health Professional Students immediately prior to and after a three-week virtual programme designed to increase clinical empathy. Using a three-factor model described for the JSE in the literature, scores were evaluated for internal consistency and paired tests were performed on scores appropriate to their distributions. Seven-point Likert scales were scored to record student experience of training and technology, which are reported descriptively. RESULTS: Most of the 37 participants were female (76%) and represented dental science (N = 27) and dental hygiene roles (N = 7). Results revealed a mean JSE-HPS scale score rise from 110.0 (SD = 10.4) to 116.4 (SD = 11.1), which represented a rise of 5.8% (t (36) = 3.6, p = 0.001). The three factors associated with cognitive empathy, namely perspective-taking (T(36) = 3.931, p < 0.001; walking in the patient's shoes T(36) = 2.093, p = 0.043); and compassionate care (Z = 2.469, p = 0.014) were all found to have increased after the intervention. Students reported a positive experience of discipline-specific and generic videos as part of the module. CONCLUSION: The study demonstrated that a virtual educational module was associated with an increase in empathy amongst dental undergraduate students. The design of a blended module incorporating the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and virtual learning are beneficial and have a promising future.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors. European Journal of Dental Education published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: clinical empathy, cognitive empathy, empathy, empathy in/ and curriculum, patient-centred health care, clinical empathy, cognitive empathy, empathy, empathy in, and curriculum, patient-centred health care, 1105 Dentistry, 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy, Dentistry
SGUL Research Institute / Research Centre: Academic Structure > Institute of Medical & Biomedical Education (IMBE)
Academic Structure > Institute of Medical & Biomedical Education (IMBE) > Centre for Clinical Education (INMECE )
Journal or Publication Title: Eur J Dent Educ
ISSN: 1600-0579
Language: eng
10 January 2023Published
10 February 2022Published Online
15 January 2022Accepted
Publisher License: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0
PubMed ID: 35114039
Web of Science ID: WOS:000753518200001
Go to PubMed abstract
Publisher's version:

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item