Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Graduate Nursing

First Advisor

Heidi Mennenga


Emotional Intelligence, Nursing, Nursing Students


Purpose. The purpose of this study was to explore emotional intelligence (EI) and its relationship to clinical reasoning in senior bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) students to gain a better understanding of how emotions are used in clinical learning experiences. This study was guided by the Four Branch Ability Model of EI.
Background. The current complex healthcare environment requires nursing students to be prepared to effectively reason in emotionally charged situations. The concept of EI and its beneficial effects in nursing are becoming more evident in the literature. However, it is still not well understood what the EI abilities are of nursing students and how EI competencies should be integrated in nursing education. In order to prepare safe and effective nurses, a foundational first step is to understand the EI of nursing students and how emotions are used in clinical learning experiences.
Methods. This study utilized a convergent parallel mixed methods design. The quantitative strand consisted of two validated instruments, the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and the Health Sciences Reasoning Test (HSRT). The qualitative strand consisted of two open-ended questions.
Results. The participants were 16 senior BSN students from a university in the Midwest region of the United States. Quantitative findings indicated a positive relationship between Strategic EI area and the clinical reasoning scale of inference (rs = .489, p = .044). A positive relationship was also found between the Understanding Emotions branch and overall clinical reasoning (rs = .559, p = .024) and its scale of induction (rs = .530, p = .035). A descriptive content analysis was completed to analyze the qualitative data, which resulted in three categories: (1) Sadness for…, (2) Shifting Emotions, and (3) Presence. Conclusion. This study indicates a relationship between aspects of EI and clinical reasoning in senior BSN students. It also provides valuable insight on emotions and their use in clinical learning experiences. This new knowledge will assist nurse educators to become more aware of EI in clinical learning experiences and inform further investigation of teaching and learning practices focused on EI and its development.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Nursing students -- Psychology.
Emotional intelligence.
Clinical competence.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University

Included in

Nursing Commons



Rights Statement

In Copyright