The Assessment of Empathy Levels among Radiation Therapists

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Collins, Kristina
Washburn University
Department of Allied Health
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Empathy is an integral component of effective communication and successful patient care in the healthcare system. However technological advancements, increased patient loads and rising expectations have transformed health care professional’s duties, including those of a radiation therapist. Upon identification of the changing workforce, one must consider whether intensifying stressors negatively impact the expression of empathy the radiation therapist demonstrates, thus decreasing the level of care he or she can provide to the patients. A 15-item questionnaire was developed to gain an understanding of the average empathy levels of practicing radiation therapists compared to individuals in radiation educational programs. Survey results showed a lower average in the empathy expressed by radiation therapy students compared to those employed in the field for varying lengths of time. However, although radiation therapists maintain a higher overall empathy average compared to radiation therapy students, supplemental findings identified a trend whereas the radiation therapist’s empathy levels began to decline as the time in the field increased. The findings of the survey are valuable as they identify a necessity to further implement empathy-enhancing opportunities in the educational programs to better prepare the graduates for the working world, as well as the need to implement empathy-related and professional self-care continued learning opportunities in the occupation to maintain stability once the professional is in the field.