Emotional Intelligence: Changes Over the First Year of Physician Assistant Education


Purpose: To investigate emotional intelligence (EI) development in physician assistant (PA) students as they progress through their didactic education.

Methods: Data were gathered through an online survey of EI distributed to a purposeful sample of 5 institutions with similar curriculum length and start dates. Program directors forwarded the survey to students at the start of their didactic education (pretest). Follow-up surveys were distributed via email to the students at the end of their didactic education (posttest). The survey consisted of 33 items related to 4 subscales of EI. Participants' age, gender, and previous healthcare experience were gathered. Five repeated measures ANOVAs were calculated for each EI summary score. Independent sample t-tests were conducted between pretest scores and a previously established EI mean.

Results: A total of 192 first-year students were solicited. A sample of 68 (16 males; 52 females) served as participants. No results were attained for gender or age due to unbalanced sample sizes. Significant results were realized for total EI and the Managing Others' Emotions subscale.

Conclusion: Participants with more than one healthcare experience demonstrated significantly high emotional intelligence on the pretest. Participants with one healthcare experience demonstrated a significant increase in total EI and the Managing Others' Emotions subscale. The main limitation of the study was the attrition of participants between measures. Future research is needed to assess EI at the end of the clinical year, after a period of clinical experience, and to determine which educational activities are most likely to enhance EI.


Physician Assistant Studies

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The journal of physician assistant education : the official journal of the Physician Assistant Education Association