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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
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Emotional intelligence and compassion: considerations for recruiting mental health nursing students

Steve Lyon Senior lecturer, University of Huddersfield Correspondence:


The interest in emotional intelligence and its link with appropriate values should come as no surprise especially in mental health nursing and nursing in general.

Shortfalls in patient care has led to an increased emphasis on the values held by pre-registration nursing applicants, and a desire for values based recruitment. Two major scandals, in particular, at Winterbourne and North Staffordshire have focused minds on ensuring appropriate recruitment.

Both Francis (Department of Health, 2013) and Willis (Royal College of Nursing, 2012) advocated the recruitment of nurses based with appropriate values and behaviours, and emotional intelligence features strongly in the draft NMC standards (NMC, 2017).

Among the selection methods described by Health Education England (2014a) are two forms of emotional intelligence testing: the use of questionnaires and the use of situational judgement tests.

This article describes the concept of emotional intelligence and two forms of emotional intelligence testing, and appraises their use within one northern university in England for selecting students.

Defining emotional intelligence and its link with compassion and caring

The concept of emotional intelligence has attracted attention ever since Goleman (1995) popularised the term. Although critics have commented on its ambiguity (Landy, 2005) it has proved of interest among nurse academics (Codier, 2015; Freshwater and Stickley, 2004; Hurley and Stansfield, 2012; Rankin, 2011; Snowden et al, 2015).

Emotional intelligence and its links with effective patient care feature in the nursing literature (Ball, 2013; Choi et al, 2015; Hurley and Stansfield, 2013). In addition, some authors describe a connection between emotional intelligence and caring (Baughan and Smith, 2013; Bulmer-Smith et al, 2009; Codier, 2015).

Similarly, a number of authors have suggested that emotional intelligence and compassion are linked (Codier, 2015; Rankin, 2013).

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About Mental Health Nursing

This issue features a range of news, features and papers on mental health nursing, including a student focus on carrying out assessments, an initiative to support the physical health of people with a mental illness, an evaluation of emotional intelligence tests in recruitment, an examination of non-violent resistance, an article by comedian Jake Mills on his personal experience and campaigning in mental health, an introduction to the power threat meaning framework, and an interview with Vanessa Garrity.