Emotional intelligence as a mechanism to build resilience and non-technical skills in undergraduate nurses undertaking clinical placement

Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2020 Feb;29(1):47-55. doi: 10.1111/inm.12607. Epub 2019 May 25.


The environments in which nursing work is undertaken can be highly stressful and complex with resultant harmful outcomes for the health of both nurses and patients reported. Undergraduate nursing students are particularly challenged when on clinical placement through having only partially developed work capabilities, with wide claims that these nurses remain underprepared for work even upon graduation. Over time undergraduate nursing education has arguably not prioritized developing resilience and other non-technical skills required to respond effectively to these challenges. This paper reports findings from a qualitative study of student nurses who received training and coaching in emotional intelligence, a well-established correlate of resilience, just prior to undertaking a mental health or medical/surgical clinical placement. Of that cohort, 12 agreed to qualitative semi-structured interviews that sought to better understand how these students used the knowledge and capabilities from the training within clinical placement contexts. Four themes emerged from the thematic analysis of the interviews: (1) greater experiences of resilience; (2) responding positively to mental health consumers; (3) experiences of greater empathy and compassion; and (4) experiences of improved non-technical work skills. Implications from these findings suggest that student and patient experiences of nursing placement, and mental health nursing placements in particular, would be enhanced by pre-placement emotional intelligence training and coaching. Such training will support nursing graduates to be work-ready upon entering the workforce.

Keywords: emotional intelligence; mental health nursing; nurse education; qualitative research; resilience.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate*
  • Emotional Intelligence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Qualitative Research
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*