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Effectiveness of empathy education for undergraduate nursing students
  1. Alison Twycross1,
  2. David Barrett2
  1. 1The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alison Twycross, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK; alison.twycross{at}

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Background and purpose

  • This is a summary of Levett-Jones T, Cant R, and Lapkin S .1

  • Empathy is the ability to understand and share other people’s feelings, often described as being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

  • Empathetic healthcare interventions are thought to improve patient outcomes.

  • There is a need for preregistration nursing programmes to teach students how to be empathetic.

  • The purpose of this systematic review was to critically appraise and synthesise the current evidence regarding empathy interventions in undergraduate nurse education.


Results and areas for future research

  • Twenty-three studies from eight countries; two studies collected longitudinal data while four studies randomised students into intervention and control groups.

  • Nine of the interventions resulted in an increase in empathy among participants.

  • The most effective interventions were immersive and experiential simulations focusing on vulnerable patient groups (eg, wearing a hemiparesis suit) that provided opportunities for guided reflection.

  • Larger studies using validated tools are needed that evaluate the impact of educational intervention on students’ behaviours in practice over the longer term.

Take home messages

  • Nurse educators should employ methods such as immersive simulation to help their students enhance their ability to empathise with patients and carers.

Ethics statements

Patient consent for publication



  • Twitter @alitwy, @barrett1972

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.