Journal of Professional Nursing

Emotional competence and nursing education: A New Zealand study 

Stacey C. Wilson, RN, PG Dip. Nsg (Mental Health), M.Phil, MNZCMHN School of Health and Social Services, Massey University, Palmerston North 
Jenny Carryer, RN, PhD, FCNA(NZ), MNZM, Clinical Chair of Nursing, Massey University/MidCentral District Health Board, Palmerston North

Reference:  Wilson, S. C., & Carryer, J. (2008). Emotional competence and nursing education: A New Zealand study. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 24(1), 36- 47.


Effective nursing practice requires the ability to recognise emotions and handle responses in relationships with clients and their families. This emotional competence includes nurses managing their own emotional life along with the skill to relate effectively to the multiple colleagues and agencies that nurses work alongside. The research was designed to explore the views of nurse educators about the challenges they encounter when seeking to assess a student’s development of emotional competence during the three year bachelor of nursing degree. Focus groups were used to obtain from educators evidence of feeling and opinion as to how theory and practice environments influence student nurses’ development of emotional competence. The process of thematic analysis was utilised and three key themes arose as areas of importance to the participants. These were personal and social competence collectively comprises emotional competence in nursing; emotional competence is a key component of fitness to practise; and transforming caring into practice. The findings of the study indicate a need for definition of what emotional competence is in nursing. It is argued that educators and practicing nurses, who work alongside students, must uphold the expectation that emotional competence is a requisite ability and should themselves be able to role model emotionally competent communication.  

Emotional competence, nursing education, emotions, fitness to practise

Collectively those who choose to undertake education to become a Registered Nurse are people with wide and varied experiences and capabilities. In order for nursing students to gain confidence, effective communication skills, and the ability to convey hope and regard for others within their relationships, they must learn to recognise and understand emotions. Accepting such emotions and validating this experience is essential when establishing a relationship. However, managing emotions and working with the emotions of others is not a readily teachable skill. 

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