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Abstract

Purpose/Hypothesis: Students in graduate level DPT programs function at varying levels. Some students thrive and others struggle to maintain required minimum levels of academic performance. When considering admission of applicants, and when assisting enrolled students, consideration of factors contributing to academic success is of interest. Stress has been shown to be prevalent in a wide range of students and has many negative effects including poor life satisfaction, increased clinical burnout, and reduced academic performance. Research has shown a correlation between higher emotional intelligence (EI) and decreased stress levels in medical, nursing, and undergraduate students. The purpose of this study was to examine if emotional intelligence (EI) and/or extrovert bias correlates with perceived stress levels in Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students. It was hypothesized that students with higher emotional intelligence and more extroverted personalities would experience lower levels of perceived stress.

Participants: After providing consent, a convenience sample of 60 first and second year DPT students (33 female) with age range 23 to 38 participated in the current study. Participation was voluntary and 60 of a possible 72 students chose to participate.

Materials/Methods: After obtaining informed consent, participants completed Goldberg’s IPIP-Neo questionnaire (extraversion), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and Assessing Emotions Scale (emotional intelligence). Each of these tools have demonstrated validity and reliability for the respective areas measured. Surveys were administered to students and results were analyzed for possible relationships between extraversion and stress levels as well as EI and stress levels using a Spearman Correlation test.

Results: Spearman Correlation analyses were conducted with a significant negative correlation between EI and perceived stress rs = -0.291, p= 0.026 and a non-significant negative correlation between extraversion and perceived stress rs = -1.36, p= 0.305.

Discussion: In the current sample, EI had a significant negative relationship with perceived stress levels, with higher EI scores correlating to lower levels of stress. The relationship between extraversion and perceived stress was non-significant.

Clinical Relevance: Doctorate level graduate programs can be considered intense and very stressful. Admission of qualified students equipped to meet the demands of a DPT program has great importance. Establishing a correlation between EI, introversion/extraversion bias, and stress may help DPT programs further assess prospective students. Consideration of factors correlated with higher perceived stress may be useful when providing resources to admitted students to facilitate academic success.

Author Bio(s)

Scott Richardson, PT, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the College of Health and Natural Sciences at Franklin Pierce University. He has also earned the Advanced Competency in Home Health from the American Physical Therapy Association.

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