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The Impact of Patient and Family Advisors on Critical Care Nurses’ Empathy

Cosper, Pam, DNP, RN, NEA-BC; Kaplow, Roberta, PhD, RN; Moss, Jacqueline, PhD, RN, FAAN

Journal of Nursing Administration: December 2018 - Volume 48 - Issue 12 - p 622–628
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0000000000000692

Objective The objective of this study was to determine if patient and family advisors’ (PFAs) collaboration in an educational program could increase the empathy levels of intensive care unit (ICU) nurses.

Background Data suggest that nurse empathy is on the decline. Ensuring that nurses consistently empathize with patients and families helps create positive patient experiences.

Methods Thirty nurses participated in a PFA-designed educational intervention using simulation-based role playing. The Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ) was used to measure empathy before and after the intervention.

Results The TEQ empathy scores increased significantly after nurses completed the PFA-designed educational program. Younger nurses (<30 years) improved on average 3.03 ± 3.6 points compared with older nurses (>30 years), who improved, on average, only 0.43 ± 2.06 points (t 24.4 = 2.46, P = .021). For the changes in TEQ scores from preintervention to postintervention, age was significantly associated with improvements in TEQ scores.

Conclusions Patient and family advisors can positively impact empathy among ICU nurses.

Author Affiliations: Nursing Director, Critical Care Services (Dr Cosper); Clinical Nurse Specialist (Dr Kaplow), Emory University Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia; Professor and Associate Dean for Technology & Innovation (Dr Moss), University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Dr Cosper, Emory University Hospital, 1364 Clifton Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30322 (

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