Empathy in UK pharmacy students: assessing differences by gender, level in the degree programme, part-time employment and medical status

Maurice Hall, Lezley-Anne Hanna, Alan Hanna, Christine McDevitt


Background: Empathy is an important aspect of patient–healthcare professional interactions.

Aims: To investigate whether gender, level in the degree programme, employment and health status affected empathy scores of undergraduate pharmacy students.

Method: All undergraduate pharmacy students (n=529) at Queen’s University Belfast were invited via email to complete an online validated empathy questionnaire. Empathy scores were calculated and non-parametric tests used to determine associations between factors.

Results: Response rate was 60.1% (318/529) and the mean empathy score was 106.19. Scores can range from 20 to 140, with higher scores representing a greater degree of empathy. There was no significant difference between genders (p=0.211). There was a significant difference in scores across the four levels of the programme (p<0.001); scores were lowest at Level 1 and greatest at Level 4 (final year). There were no significant differences in scores for respondents who had a part-time job, a chronic condition, or took regular medication in comparison to those who did not (p=0.028, p=0.880, p=0.456, respectively).

Conclusion: A reasonable level of empathy was found relative to other studies; this could be further enhanced at lower levels of the degree pathway. 


Empathy, Pharmacy, Questionnaire, Undergraduate

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