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An Exploration of Applied Liberal Education Competencies and Empathic Decision-Making in BSN Nurses

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posted on 17.02.2017, 00:00 authored by Sara Adams
Empathy has been identified as a professional nursing characteristic that is essential to the nurse-patient relationship. Professional empathy is considered a learned skill and has been successfully taught and cultivated in nursing school through the use of arts and humanities integration into nursing curricula. However, this integration is not standard in most programs of nursing. Foundational liberal education is required for the bachelor of science degree in nursing which includes courses in the liberal arts and sciences. Pre-professional education is where the majority of nurses receive most of their arts and humanities education. Nursing has long been recognized as an art and a science and the science of nursing is well represented and taught throughout nursing curricula. Nurses, as well as educators, have been able to draw direct links between foundational liberal science courses and nursing science. What is less well known is how the art of nursing is represented in nursing curricula and how liberal education content, specifically content rooted in the humanities plays a role in the development of professional nursing characteristics such as empathy and professional decision making. The specific aims of this study were to examine the associations between applied liberal education competencies and empathy and to explore the perceptions of liberal education and the use of empathy in professional decision making among baccalaureate prepared registered nurses. A cross-sectional descriptive survey was taken from a sample of recently graduate baccalaureate prepared registered nurses. The Applied Liberal Education Competencies Scale (ALECS) and the Jefferson Scale of Empathy for Healthcare Providers (JSE-HP©) were used to gather self-report information from practicing nurses about the use of liberal education concepts in nursing practice and the use of empathy in patient care. Open ended questions were also included to acquire information about the types of decisions that are made in nursing practice that require the use of empathy. The results of this study indicate that empathy is positively moderately correlated (p < .05) with critical thinking, as an applied liberal education competency in this group of practicing nurses. The results of this study also show that nurses use empathy to guide professional practice decisions. Empathy was specifically noted to be of use in situations where nurses were called upon to make patient care decisions where there was a moral or ethical situation that required more than the use of technical judgment. The results of this study add to the body of knowledge in nursing education that reflects the cultivation of empathy in nursing education, the growth of professional decision making skills, and the design of nursing curricula to support the development of professional nursing characteristics that reflect the real-world practice of nursing.



Scott, Linda


Scott, Linda



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Committee Member

Dallas, Constance Gorman, Geraldine Krassa, Teresa Marnocha, Suzanne

Submitted date

December 2016

Issue date


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