Forcing Empathy

Can Your Force People To Become More Empathetic?

33 Charts speaks on new trends in medical student selection:

It seems that there are medical schools taking the initiative to help their students become more compassionate.  It’s a worthy goal but I don’t know if it’s possible.  We can teach individuals to actcompassionate.  But that, of course, is different from being compassionate.  While there may be literature to support the cause, I don’t think that a curriculum can cultivate empathy

Of course, if you believe this sort of research, this initiative is not only ineffective, but possibly detrimental.

I wrote about this issue previously, and I more or less agree. However, I’d add a few caveats:

1). Your level of empathy can be influenced by your environment if the situation is moving enough.

2). A lot of medical students probably choose a career in medicine because they fancy themselves as empathetic people, because empathetic people go out of their way to take care of others.

If I wanted to increase the level of empathy in a medical school, I would treat point 1 as a dead cause. There’s too much to change. With regards to point 2, I would change the admissions criteria to place a greater emphasis on people who engage in empathetic activities.

Of course, I have no idea if that would cause the program to create better doctors. I’d be interested in research done on doctor personality and doctor quality.

If you accept the quoted part and point 2 at face value, I think it gives credence to the idea that much of medicine is about showing that you care.

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