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Abstract

Purpose: Empathy and regard are understood to be critical to high-quality health care. The purposes of this study were: 1) to increase the representation of the rehabilitation sciences within the literature, 2) to refine the distinctions between empathy and regard, and 3) to examine the relation between empathy and regard within the context of two medical conditions with disparate amounts of associated stigma (cerebrovascular accident [CVA] and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [HIV/AIDS]). Method: Utilizing the Jefferson Scale of Empathy – Health Professions Student version and the Medical Condition Regard Scale, levels of empathy and regard were assessed twice in first-year graduate students of clinical doctoral programs in occupational therapy and physical therapy and a master’s speech-language pathology program, once each in the contexts of CVA and HIV/AIDS. Results: Findings indicate that students of the rehabilitation sciences have empathy levels similar to published levels for students in other health professions; empathy and regard are distinct characteristics, where when assessed in the context of a stigmatized condition, empathy was similar but regard ; and empathy and regard positively vary with one another in the context of a stigmatized medical condition Conclusions: This study suggests that there may be unmet potential for training in empathy and a need for increased education on stigmatized medical conditions to enhance regard.

Author Bio(s)

Alexia E. Metz, PhD, OTR/L is associate professor in the occupational therapy doctoral program at the University of Toledo.

Allison Christoff, OTD, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, working for a travel contract company.

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