Developing Student Empathy with a Child’s Perspective of the X-ray Department

Matthews, K (2013) Developing Student Empathy with a Child’s Perspective of the X-ray Department. In: 6th scientific meeting of the Irish Network of Medical Educators (INMED), 21st February to Friday 22nd February 2013, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


Background Empathy can be defined as an ability to identify with and understand another’s situation, feelings, and motives – the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy involves health care professionals being able to communicate that understanding to their patients (Hojat et al, 2009). Empathy is important in dealing with children in hospital. “When patients feel they have been heard and understood, their adherence to medical management plans is increased” (Shore, 2009). An empathetic approach from the radiographer can make the examination less stressful for the child, and can result in greater ease for the radiographer in obtaining diagnostic images. Whether empathy is an inherent personality trait or a skill that can be taught is a moot point in published literature. However, Anderson and Konrath (2011) report that while students have varying inherent ability to empathise, that ability can be developed through teaching and individual effort. METHOD We wanted to provoke radiography students to think about how a child perceives the X-ray department, such that they could better empathise with a child’s anxieties. We developed a simple and fun exercise where each student was asked to sit or lie on the floor or an X-ray table, anywhere in an imaging department, and take a photograph of what a small child would see. The students then had to present the photo and a reflective commentary within group pages of our virtual learning environment. The commentary had to identify how the child’s perspective is different to that of an adult, how that may influence a child’s thoughts and feelings about being in X-ray, and how this knowledge can help a radiographer communicate empathy to the child. RESULTS An interesting, imaginative and sometimes terrifying variety of images were presented. The commentaries were thoughtful and well considered, highlighting issues of perspective, scale, and unknown environment as being particularly threatening to a paediatric patient. In a post exercise de-briefing, the students agreed that while the work was fun, they learned a lot, both from their own work, and from the images and commentary of their class mates. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION Whether it is possible to teach empathy to the extent that students’ feelings will change is debatable, but this exercise has shown that it is possible to make students more aware of a paediatric patient’s perspective. The images and commentaries have resulted in a useful resource for students, lecturers and radiographers, giving us sight of aspects of the X-ray department that we may have become inured to in our day to day practice. Selected images and commentaries will be presented in the proposed poster.

[thumbnail of INMED 2013 Book Of Abstracts.pdf]
INMED 2013 Book Of Abstracts.pdf

Download (5MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

View Item