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Table 5 Summary of qualitative themes: empathic understanding gained (as recorded in reflective essays)

From: Art-making in a family medicine clerkship: how does it affect medical student empathy?

Theme Sub-theme Example Number of participants
Self-awareness general awareness “Apart from learning about patients and the way to communicate with patients, I also understood more about myself.” 5
  recognizing own feelings “They were scenes in my life that I had probably neglected… I learnt to examine my own emotion at the particular time in a more detailed manner.” 3
  coping with feelings “We need to strike a balance between the feelings, care and let go; otherwise we and the people surrounding us would be the victims of those feelings.” 3
  realizing limitations “I realized how inadequate I am in self-understanding…” 4
  existential concerns “the meaning of life and death issue. It’s such a huge topic for us students to think about, but still we got a few points of view on this session, some of which had never come to my mind before.” 3
Patient awareness empathy “put us into patients’ shoes,” 10
  holistic/patient-centered care “not treating the disease, but more important is that, we are treating the patient himself.” 12
Understanding pain and suffering awareness of presence “Pain and suffering are two feelings that we all feared of sharing. Yet already as a medical student, I have experienced it at close intervals from my dealings with the sick and ill. I have kept it in, locked, ignored and neglected so I can continue my medical duties and tasks as expected by the society.” 5
  expanded view of pain and suffering “I cannot appreciate all the pieces and put myself into the emotion described. I can only appreciate that pain and suffering do exist in many different forms.” 3
  duality of pain and suffering “what is most important it’s the unexpected ‘side effects’ come along, for instance, regaining family bonding.” 3
  distinguish between physical pain and metal suffering “we can explain all those pain through physiological pathway[s],… However, for the mental aspect, it is much more complicated and difficult to understand.” 4
Role of the doctor alleviate emotional pain “In addition to serving as ‘experts’ to provide curative treatment, doctors could also serve as someone who has witnessed multiple similar events to offer support, counseling and a pair of listening ears, which form an integral part of patient management and disease outcome.” 4
  alleviate physical pain “When we encounter different patient, we can give different kinds of medication to relieve their symptoms” 1
  contribute to pain “I told her about the results. She was quite shocked” 1