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Virtual museum to inspire empathy in healthcare

A team of academics at UTS in Sydney are leading a first-of-its-kind ‘Virtual Empathy Museum’ (VEM) – an innovative digital resource funded by an Australian Technology Network of Universities grant.

The museum is a collection of educational resources that health professionals and students can use to improve empathy in healthcare.

UTS professor of nursing education Tracy Levett-Jones said empathy is considered a basic component of person-centred care and therapeutic relationships.

“Patients define this as one of the key elements of quality care,” Levett-Jones said.

She added that more than 200 studies were conducted supported this thinking.

“Empathetic encounters result in decreased levels of stress, depression and anxiety.

“There are also physiological consequences like reduced rates of infection, and higher cancer survival rates; even common colds are shorter due to the empathetic relations with professionals,” she said.

She said empathy was not just a ‘nice’ thing to do but a critical skill to have.

The museum was set up in conjunction with the Empathy Symposium which takes place later this year. Levett-Jones said the symposium will bring together healthcare educators, clinicians and researchers committed to better understanding the power of empathy to transform education and practice.

The symposium was created with the intention of starting a conversation that leads to empathy becoming integral to every healthcare curriculum.

The forum will also explore the relationship between empathy and patient outcomes to promote practical strategies for enhancing and evaluating empathy.

Levett-Jones said the VEM includes evidenced-based teaching materials such as simulations, digital stories and other resources designed to enhance healthcare students’ empathy skills and enable them to make a positive impact on patient care.

The project is being led by Levett-Jones, with team members from the University of Technology Sydney and Curtin University.

Here to tell us more is Levett-Jones.

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