Romero MH, Escobar L, Sánchez JA. Empathy Levels among Veterinary Medicine Students in Colombia (South America). J Vet Med Educ. 2022 Dec;49(6):740-747

PMID: 34499579


Empathy plays an important role in veterinarians' relationships with their patients, clients, and colleagues. Because it relates to greater clinical competence and facilitates the acquisition of information for diagnosing, prescribing therapies, and identifying and treating animal pain, empathy is an essential competence to be strengthened during professional training. The objective of this study was to evaluate the empathy levels of veterinary medicine students toward people and animals and to identify associated factors. The animal empathy scale and the Davis interpersonal reactivity index were applied through an electronic survey to first-, third-, and fifth-year students (n = 559) in three veterinarian medical schools in Colombia. A principal components analysis was performed to identify composite scores of human and animal empathy levels. The empathy toward humans total score ranged from 0 to 112, and the empathy toward animals total score was between 22 and 198. The average empathy scores for students were 89.67 ± 9.02 (mean ± SD; range: 60-115) and 115.01 ± 13.41 (mean ± SD; range: 67-165), respectively. The results suggest that empathy scores toward people are acceptable. Gender, university, program type, age, year of study, and diet were significantly associated with empathy levels toward animals. It is proposed that levels of empathy toward animals be strengthened by fostering a positive learning environment, developing ethical and animal welfare competencies, and increasing empathetic contact and hands-on experience with animals during the curriculum.