Exploration of the interrelationship between emotional intelligence, stress and coping strategies among undergraduate nursing students

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Nerissa Asturias, Masters by Research Candidate
College of Health and Biomedicine, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

It has been identified that undergraduate nursing students (UGNS) experience a significant amount of stress related to their study or personal life. There were several factors that contributed to stress for UGNS including: academic demands; balancing work, school and home demands; unpreparedness for clinical practice; and interpersonal and health issues (Gibbons, 2010; Meachin & Webb, 1996). On the other hand, coping strategies, which refer to ‘how individuals manage the demand of stressful events’ (Montes-Berges & Augusto, 2007, p. 2) may not always be effective in managing stress. In recent years, emotional intelligence (EI) have been found to be helpful in improving mood and reducing the effects of stress (Ciarrochi, Deane, & Anderson, 2002; Görgens‐Ekermans & Brand, 2012; Landa, López-Zafra, Martos, & del Carmen Aguilar-Luzón, 2008). Furthermore, it has also been proven to be strongly associated with academic achievement, critical thinking, peer learning and help seeking (Fernandez, Salamonson, & Griffiths, 2012). The aims of this study was to measure the level of EI, perceived stress and psychological distress of the participants; to identify the usual coping strategies the participants tend to utilise in stressful situation; and, to examine the relationship between EI and stress, psychological distress and coping strategies for UGNS.

A descriptive correlational design was used in this study. Self-report questionnaires, which involve collecting information directly from the participants, was used to collect data in this study (Taylor, Kermode, & Roberts, 2006). The Schutte Self-Report Emotional Intelligence Test (Schutte, Malouff, & Bhullar, 2009), Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983), Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (Kessler et al., 2010), Coping Strategy Inventory – Short Form (Tobin, Holroyd, Reynolds, & Wigal, 1989), and a demographic survey were utilised to obtain data. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics. The relationship between emotional intelligence, perceived stress, psychological distress and coping strategies was analysed by univariate analysis (independent samples t-test, one-way ANOVA, Pearson’s Correlation) and multiple regression. Completion and submission of questionnaires was implied consent. Institutional ethics approval was obtained.

This study found out that most participants had average levels of emotional intelligence (M = 123.87, SD = 12.48) and were likely to be experiencing moderate to high levels of stress (M = 20.55, SD = 6.06) and some degree of psychological distress (M = 14.28, SD = 4.91). Additionally, participants reported preference for utilisation of engagement (M = 56.33, SD = 10.27), rather than disengagement (M = 46.29, SD = 11.36) coping strategies. A negative correlation was found between emotional intelligence perceived stress (r = -.34, p = <.001), psychological distress (r = -.37, p = <.001) and disengagement coping strategies (r = -.38, p = <.001); while, a positive correlation was found between emotional intelligence and engagement coping strategies (r = .55, p = <.001). Significant statistical differences were identified in emotional intelligence level, perceived stress and utilisation of coping strategies based on individual characteristics.

This study examined the relationship between emotional intelligence, stress, psychological distress and coping strategies of undergraduate nursing students. This study found that student participants were experiencing moderate to high level of stress despite having good level of EI and tendency to utilising engagement coping strategies. This study also found that some socio-demographic factors had some influence on the person’s level of EI, perception of stress and utilisation of coping strategies. In Australia, the number of students with a multicultural background and/or on a temporary residency status who are studying in Australia, has been steadily increasing in recent years. Because of this, socio-demographic factors should also be explored in future studies as they may also influence the development of EI among individuals, perception of stress, being vocal to experiences of psychological distress and utilisation of coping strategies.