The Empathy Continuum: An evidenced-based teaching model derived from an integrative review of contemporary nursing literature.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2020, 29, (7-8), pp. 1026-1040
Issue Date:
Filename Description Size
jocn.15137.pdfPublished version1.52 MB
Adobe PDF
Full metadata record
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES:This paper has two objectives: first, to explain the concept of empathy derived from an integrative review of contemporary nursing literature; and second, to profile a new conceptual model of empathy that can be used to inform the teaching of empathy. BACKGROUND:Empathy is fundamental to therapeutic communication and integral to quality patient care. However, the lack of agreement on the definition or conceptualisation of empathy in the nursing literature can make teaching and evaluating this skill challenging and inconsistent. DESIGN:Integrative review of literature. DATA SOURCES:Publications from January 2000 to July 2018 in Ovid Medline, Scopus, CINAHLPlus, PsychINFO, and PubMed. REVIEW METHODS:As no integrative review checklists are currently available, a PRISMA checklist was adapted to guide this review. A two-stage approach was used to explore the concept of empathy. Key definitions and attributes of empathy were identified from 11 primary studies and tabulated to allow for display and comparison. Next, the definitions and attributes of empathy drawn from a purposeful sample of 18 nursing education studies were examined, tabulated and summarized. Finally, the two samples were integrated and synthesized to form a cohesive summary, which was then illustrated with teaching and learning exemplars. RESULTS:Despite the lack of consensus on the definitions of empathy evident in the literature, recurring attributes and elements of empathy were evident, leading to the development of a new empathy model. CONCLUSION:Patterns of consistency in the attributes of empathy that emerged from the review provided the basis for a new conceptual model, termed 'The Empathy Continuum'. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE:Each of the stages in The Empathy Continuum can be used to teach learners the meaning, attributes and application of empathy in practice. The model will be relevant to nurse educators as well as educators from other disciplines. WHAT DOES THIS PAPER CONTRIBUTE TO THE WIDER GLOBAL CLINICAL COMMUNITY?: This paper presents an evidence-based conceptual model of empathy that can be used to teach and assess students' and practitioners' the skills required to provide empathic care to patients and their families.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: