Physician Assistant M.S.

Year Approved


First Advisor

Goetz, Cindy


This research sought to determine whether empathy declined with either increased years of physician assistant (PA) clinical experience or increased years of pre-PA healthcare experience (HCE). Although there has been an abundance of research examining empathy level trends among healthcare providers, most of these studies have looked at student empathy and not empathy level changes among practicing healthcare providers. However, among clinical healthcare providers, burnout trends with increasing years of experience (Smith, 2018) and a decline in empathy (Wilkinson, Wittington, Perry, & Eames, 2017); therefore, this project examined the link between years of practice and empathy decline. This cross-sectional study surveyed the current 122 Bethel University PA Program graduates from 2015 through 2018 utilizing the Jefferson Scale of Empathy- Health Professions (JSE-HP) empathy assessment tool. Demographic, clinical experience, pre-PA HCE, and empathy data was collected from 48 graduates (39% response rate). Mean age of respondents was 28.98 years old; clinical experience ranged from 0.5-4.0 years; and pre-PA HCE ranged from 0-13.0 years. JSE-HP empathy scores ranged from 72 to 136 with a mean score of 115.83. The research did not show a statistically significant decline in empathy with PAs who had more pre-PA HCE (r2 = 0.02; P = 0.908) or as PAs gained years of clinical experience (r2 = 0.20; P = 0.172). Consistent with other research, mean female empathy scores (118.84) were higher than their male counterparts (105.73); this difference was highly significant (P = 0.003). Participant age was not shown to be a statistically significant factor in predicting empathy level (P = 0.08).

Degree Name

Masters of Science in Physician Assistant

Document Type

Masterʼs thesis

Included in

Primary Care Commons