Attachment and empathy in Australian undergraduate paramedic, nursing and occupational therapy students: A cross-sectional study

Brett Williams, Ted Brown, Lisa McKenna, Bronwyn Beovich, Jamie Etherington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines . attachment and . empathy in undergraduate health care students at one Australian university. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2014 with 600 students across three health professions from four university courses; paramedic, nursing, occupational therapy and a combined paramedic/nursing course. Attachment styles were measured with the Relationship Scales Questionnaire, and empathy levels with the Jefferson Scale of Empathy-Health Profession-Student version. Student demographic data were also collected. The results indicated paramedic students scored highest on the Secure attachment style and nursing students scored highest on the Insecure attachment style. Paramedic/nursing students recorded the highest empathy scores and nurses scored the lowest. On the Dismissing attachment style the mean difference between the four student groups was found to be statistically significant (p = 0.003). A small but significant correlation was found between attachment style and empathy scores. The findings suggest that attachment style has an impact on empathy levels. Results will assist educators in designing appropriate curricula to promote an understanding of attachment style and empathy as positive graduate attributes and essential factors in providing high-quality care to patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-609
Number of pages7
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Curricula
  • Graduate attributes
  • Professional competencies

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