Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Colleen Loomis

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Interprofessional collaboration is emerging as a key factor in reshaping healthcare practices in Canada over the last eight years. Collaboration in healthcare necessarily implies health providers sharing responsibility and partnering with each other in order to provide comprehensive patient care. A review of the empirical literature on teamwork in healthcare settings suggests that relationships between service providers remain conflictual and variable in their commitment to interprofessional collaboration (Zwarnstein & Bryant 2000). Recently, social psychologists have given considerable attention to the possibility that empathy could be used to improve intergroup attitudes and relations (Batson & Ahmad, 2009). Although empathy may be referred to as a means to humanize healthcare practices, there have been no published studies from the healthcare literature on the nature of interprofessional empathy. Understanding frameworks different from your own and empathizing with other members of the team is fundamental to collaborative teamwork (Parker & Axtell, 2001). The aim of this study was to understand the nature of empathy between members of interprofessional teams within a hospital environment. The study followed the lived experience of 24 health professionals with their perspective of empathy on interprofessional teams. A two-step procedure to implement this study consisting of semi-structured interviews and depth interviews was used to understand the nature of interprofessional empathy. The analytical method of phenomenological data analysis as proposed by Moustakas (1994) was used to identify common themes and meanings across interviews. Findings from this study suggested that the following six themes were critical to developing high quality empathetic relationships on interprofessional teams: (1) engaging in conscious interactions, (2) using dialogic communication, (3) understanding each other’s roles, (4) appreciating personality differences, (5) perspective taking, and (6) nurturing the collective spirit. Knowledge around these themes will provide clinicians with the information necessary to develop a greater understanding of experiences that influence them in their day-to-day activities within their interprofessional teams. The research also found that (1) accessibility, (2) teambuilding, (3) overlapping scopes of practice, (4) teachable moments, (5) perception of workload, (6) empathetic leadership, (7) non-hierarchal work relationships, and (8) job security provided the necessary organizational supports to promote and sustain positive interprofessional relationships. The findings culminated in an idealized model of interprofessional empathy that was prescriptive in nature. The model delineated the foundational behaviors, actions and attitudes that may be necessary to support the development of healthy relationships among interprofessional team members.

Convocation Year


Included in

Psychology Commons