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01-08-2015 | Show and Tell | Uitgave 4/2015 Open Access

Perspectives on Medical Education 4/2015

Fostering informed empathy through patient-centred education about persons with disabilities

Perspectives on Medical Education > Uitgave 4/2015
M.D. Sonya R. Miller



Having a disability can negatively affect provider-patient communication. Persons with disabilities report the need for better communication with their health care providers and argue that education regarding disabilities is lacking for health care professionals. We sought to determine if a patient-centred curriculum focused on individuals with disabilities could foster the development of informed empathy.


An educational module to enhance health care students’ capacity for informed empathy was developed. To assess the development of informed empathy, a qualitative analysis of the post-module question, ‘How has your understanding, awareness or perception of individuals with disabilities changed?’ was performed.


Themes of the qualitative analysis were (a) becoming familiar with the daily life of individuals with disabilities, (b) changing notions of normalcy, (c) seeing discrimination against individuals with disabilities as an issue that impacted them, (d) recognition that disability is not only an issue of the physical body.


Informed empathy can be effectively taught through a patient-centred curriculum focused on persons with disabilities. Health care providers are effective advocates when they understand the physical, emotional, social, and communication issues of persons with disabilities.
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