Open Access Open Badges Research article

Psychometric properties and confirmatory factor analysis of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy

Sina Tavakol1, Reg Dennick2 and Mohsen Tavakol2*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biomedical Sciences, Queen's Medical Centre, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK

2 Medical Education Unit, Queen's Medical Centre, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:54  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-54

Published: 2 August 2011



Empathy towards patients is considered to be associated with improved health outcomes. Many scales have been developed to measure empathy in health care professionals and students. The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) has been widely used. This study was designed to examine the psychometric properties and the theoretical structure of the JSPE.


A total of 853 medical students responded to the JSPE questionnaire. A hypothetical model was evaluated by structural equation modelling to determine the adequacy of goodness-of-fit to sample data.


The model showed excellent goodness-of-fit. Further analysis showed that the hypothesised three-factor model of the JSPE structure fits well across the gender differences of medical students.


The results supported scale multi-dimensionality. The 20 item JSPE provides a valid and reliable scale to measure empathy among not only undergraduate and graduate medical education programmes, but also practising doctors. The limitations of the study are discussed and some recommendations are made for future practice.

Empathy; JSPE; confirmatory factor analysis; structure validation