Medical EducationOriginal Article

Longitudinal Assessment of Medical Student Emotional Intelligence Over Preclinical Training

Linda S. Mintle, MSW, PhD; Clark F. Greer, MA, PhD; and Lauren E. Russo, OMS II
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: July 24, 2018

Accepted: August 3, 2018

Published: April 1, 2019

J Osteopath Med; 119(4): 236-242

Context: Given the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) in physician leadership and success, the possible decline of EI over the course of training is a concern in medical education.

Objectives: To assess the EI of osteopathic medical students as they progress through the preclinical years of medical school, to discover the course of EI over time, and to identify specific core EI competencies to be enhanced or coached.

Methods: This exploratory, longitudinal study used survey data to assess the course and competencies of EI in the incoming 2019 class of medical students at a college of osteopathic medicine. Changes in EI overall scores and the 8 core competency scale scores were assessed, and additional demographic data were collected for use in analysis. Methods of analysis included paired samples t test, independent samples t test, Pearson product moment correlation, and multiple regression analysis. Statistical significance was defined as P<.05.

Results: Sixty-two participants completed the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment survey at orientation and again after their second year. Overall EI scores declined over the course of the preclinical training for men and women (t61=4.24, P<.001), although no differences were noted by gender when independent-samples t tests were run. However, 2 of the 8 competency scales of the composite EI scores did not decline over time—Enhanced Emotional Literacy and Pursue Noble Goals. A weak negative correlation was found between Medical College Admission Test scores and the scale of Apply Consequential Thinking (r=−0.3, P<.05). A weak positive correlation was found between grade point average and intrinsic motivation (r=0.3, P<.05) and optimism (r=0.3, P<.05), and a moderate positive correlation existed between preboard examination scores and intrinsic motivation (r=0.5, P<.001) and optimism (r=0.4, P<.01). None of the chosen independent variables (academic grades, test scores, age, or gender) contributed to overall EI scores.

Conclusions: During the preclinical training, osteopathic medical students’ overall EI scores, as well as 6 of the 8 core competency scales, declined. Therefore, EI coaching is warranted to address specific core competencies needed to build, enhance, and prevent the decline of EI through preclinical training.

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