Previous experience caring for patients would seem to be a benefit in successfully completing a pre-registration nursing course.

Scottish researchers investigated whether students who had previous experience in providing direct care, such as nurse assistants, would successfully complete training.

They also looked at whether emotional intelligence (EI) had a bearing on whether students completed a pre-registration course.

On the surface, it would seem obvious that those students, who had previous experience, would have a greater understanding of what nursing means and the expectations that were expected to be successful in their education.

Yet these researchers reported in the Journal of Advanced Nursing that the more successful students were those without previous nursing experience.

Previous research had found that students with previous caring experience were more likely to leave their education after the first year of training.

So this research is further confirmation that students with previous nursing experience are more likely not to complete their studies.

This is should not be taken to mean that all students with previous experience will not complete.

It is that students with no experience was more likely to complete and be more successful at their nursing studies.

Students who have experience may think that they will breeze through and not work as hard as than those that do not.

As the researchers said

“ …it remains to be seen if previous caring experience may have a positive impact on career progression.”

EI is thought to be a useful attribute in nursing as it is associated with desirable nursing values such as caring, compassion, leadership, team work and clinical performance.

So the same researchers looked at whether EI would be a useful criteria for selection of students in nursing.

And whether EI could be a predictor of success at retaining student nurses to completion.

The main concept of EI is that life success depends more on the ability to understand and control emotions.

It is a set of abilities that enable a person to generate, recognise, express, understand and evaluate their emotions and that of others.

These abilities guide thinking and action to successfully cope with demands and pressures.

EI can be taught and people are able to improve their EI.

So a nurses’ ability to handle their emotions has a direct impact on their caring behaviours.

EI is strongly linked to conscientiousness and civic virtues.

The upshot of these behaviours in nursing would be a nurse providing care beyond the minimum standards and participating fully in service improvement.

One part of EI is the social connection factor.

Social connection factor is easily quantified with five answers to the following statements.

    1. I generally don’t find life enjoyable.

    2. On the whole I have a gloomy perspective on most things.

    3. Those close to me often complain I don’t treat them right.

    4. I often find it difficult to show my affection to those close to me.

    5. I find it difficult to bond well even with those close to me.

Those who score poorly on these questions would struggle with the interpersonal nature of nursing.

And would more likely to not complete their nursing studies.

There is a dark side to EI.

More EI is not necessarily better.

Bullies have higher EI scores than their victims.

A high EI score has been linked to narcissism, personality disorders and psychopathy.

It can be used for better or worse if associated with other personality factors or disposition.

EI can be abused for personal gain.

Optimal EI scores are not necessarily one that is high.

Each factor that makes up EI needs be considered individually to get a better balanced view of the individual.

The researchers found that student nurses who completed their course had a higher than average EI score using the TEIQue-SF measurement tool.

But more importantly they found that the social connection factor was more significant in predicting whether a student finishes their course.

The one fly in that ointment is that the TEIQue-SF tool has a gender bias.

Males scored significantly lower than females at baseline.

Yet they completed their studies as successfully as females.

To learn more about EI and course completion rates:

Snowden A, Stenhouse R, Duers L, et al. The relationship between emotional intelligence, previous caring experience and successful completion of a pre-registration nursing/midwifery degree. J Adv Nurs. 2017;00:1–10.