Relationship between increased personal well-being and enhanced empathy among internal medicine residents

Tait D. Shanafelt, Colin Patrick West, Xinghua Zhao, Paul Novotny, Joseph Kolars, Thomas Matthew Habermann, Jeff A Sloan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

213 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND; While resident distress and its potential to negatively effect patient care have been well documented, little is known about resident well-being or its potential to enhance care. OBJECTIVE: We measured resident well-being and explored its relationship with empathy. DESIGN: Anonymous, cross-sectional survey. PARTICIPANTS: Internal medicine residents at Mayo Clinic Rochester (n = 165, summer 2003). MEASUREMENTS: Well-being was measured using the previously validated Medical Outcomes Study 8-item Short Form (SF-8). Empathy was measured using the previously validated Perspective Taking (PT) and Empathetic Concerns (EC) Sub-scales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). RESULTS: Eighty-three (50%) residents responded to the survey. Mean scores for well-being as measured by the SF-8 were comparable to the general population, and empathy scores on the IRI were similar to other resident samples. Resident empathy on both the cognitive (PT) and emotive (EC) sub-scales of the IRI was higher for residents with higher mental well-being on the SF-8; however, this difference was statistically significant only for the cognitive sub-scale. The importance of a number of personal wellness promotion strategies differed for residents with higher mental well-being on the SF-8. CONCLUSIONS: High mental well-being was associated with enhanced resident empathy in this cross-sectional survey. Future studies need to explore the potential for high resident well-being to enhance medical care and competency in addition to exploring the negative consequences of resident distress. Studies investigating how to promote resident well-being are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-564
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005



  • Competency
  • Distress
  • Empathy
  • Resident
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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