Developing a new empathy-specific admissions test for applicants to medical schools: A discourse-pragmatic approach.

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The ability to empathise with patients is an important professional skill for doctors. Medical students practise this skill as part of their medical education and are tested on their use of empathy within their final examination. Evidence shows that appropriate training makes a difference but natural aptitude also plays a role. Most medical schools do, therefore, probe applicants’ basic understanding of empathy at admissions interviews. The purpose of the project presented in this paper was to apply existing understanding of how empathy may be communicated in a clinical context (building on the first author’s previous literature review, 2011) to develop a new empathy-specific medical admissions interview station, probing applicants’ empathic communicative performance (not just theoretical knowledge) and fitting in the widely used Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) interview format. The paper outlines how this tool was developed, trialled and implemented by:
1) Conceptualising empathic communication in discourse-pragmatic terms, that is, as a set of specific but context-dependant empathic speech acts.
2) Formulating and trialling a written and two oral versions of a situational test, capable of probing the applicants’ ability to communicate empathically in everyday conversation and suitable for use at Norwich Medical School and other similar educational institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165–180
Number of pages16
JournalCommunication and Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2018

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