Monday, 14 May 2018

Reply to Hoeltzell

Reply to: 

Austyn Snowden, PhD, RMN, FHEA

Thank you for commenting on our article, and for the opportunity to respond. To recap, our study found that there was a very small but positive correlation between ‘trait’ emotional intelligence and successful completion of a nursing degree at first attempt (Snowden et al., 2017). This was the finding from a three-year longitudinal study of a large cohort of Scottish student nurses who started training in 2013, and qualified in 2016. We also found that older females were more likely to complete the course, and that previous caring experience made absolutely no difference to whether students were successful or not, and in fact made it more likely for them to fail in year 1. 

We also found a slightly stronger correlation between ‘social connection’ and completion. Social connection was a factor we found in the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire- short form (TEIQue-SF) (Snowden et al., 2015), the questionnaire we used to measure trait EI in the study (Cooper and Petrides, 2010). ‘Social connection’ seemed to measure the ability to make connections between people, to apply EI. My interpretation is that it is this application of emotional intelligence that Ms Hoeltzell is referring to when arguing for ‘emotional competence’, the ability to express emotional intelligence in a social context. I’m not sure, but if my interpretation is correct, then we agree with her, because that’s what our research found.

However, I found the more interesting element of Ms Hoeltzell’s response to be the identification of emotional intelligence as ‘buzzword’. I couldn’t agree more with that. I think we have probably passed peak emotional intelligence, possibly even peak resilience, hence the need for related but extended concepts such as emotional competence. To me these less rigorous concepts simply signal that it’s time to move on, or at least look elsewhere. Our most recent data showed that in their first year of being qualified nurses, sickness/absence was associated with work experience, such that those with higher job satisfaction were less likely to go off sick. A bit obvious really, but still worth obtaining empirically. The relevant point to this response was that there was no relationship between emotional intelligence and sickness rates, or between resilience and sickness rates. Perhaps it’s time to stop blaming ourselves for lacking perfect personal attributes and instead consider a more practical analysis of the relationship between nurses and their work.

UK nursing has been through an unprecedented period of navel gazing as a consequence of care failings. Whilst it was right to reflect and repair, I think we have probably reached the end of the ‘attribute adventure’, and so I would personally consign emotional competence to history if I could, along with EI, compassion, and resilience. Instead, I would invite the social psychologists to have a go. John Paley’s critique of the compassion agenda (2013) was too early in the grief process for most to take at the time. I would urge another look.


Cooper, A., Petrides, K. V, 2010. A psychometric analysis of the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire-Short Form (TEIQue-SF) using item response theory. J. Pers. Assess. 92, 449–57. doi:10.1080/00223891.2010.497426

Paley, J., 2013. Social psychology and the compassion deficit. Nurse Educ. Today 33, 10–11. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2013.05.011

Snowden, A., Stenhouse, R., Marshall, S., Duers, L., Brown, N., Carver, F., Young, J., 2017. The relationship between emotional intelligence, previous caring experience, and successful completion of a pre-registration nursing/midwifery degree. J. Adv. Nurs. early view. doi:10.1111/jan.13455

Snowden, A., Watson, R., Stenhouse, R., Hale, C., 2015. Factor and Rasch Analysis of the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire Short Form. J. Adv. Nurs. 71, 2936–2949. doi:10.1111/jan.12746

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