Purpose: Students in an entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) programs are subject to high levels of stress and emotional burnout. Effective management of stress impacts life satisfaction and academic performance. Emotional intelligence (EI) has been shown to relate to lower stress levels in allied health students. Despite this, little has been done to investigate the emotional demands of an occupational therapy education. Methods: Participants were a convenience sample of 51 entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy Students recruited from the Southwest and Midwest cohorts of an OTD program. The participants were surveyed approximately 30 days after beginning their semester curriculum. Participants included 43 females and 8 males (n=51) with an age range of 21-36 years old. The sample was composed of 18 first-year (OT1) students, 17 second-year (OT2), and 16 third-year (OT3) students. A cross-sectional survey design was used, and the Assessing Emotions Scale and the Perceived Stress Scale questionnaires were both used to gather self-reported data regarding emotional intelligence and perceived stress. Emotional intelligence was correlated with perceived stress scores using the Spearman Rho analysis on SPSS program 25. Additionally, Kruskal Wallis analysis was used to determine if PSS and EI scores were significantly related to the year in the program. Mann Whitney U analysis was used to determine if PSS and EI scores were significantly related to gender. Results: A significant moderate negative correlation was found in this sample between emotional intelligence and perceived stress (rs= -0.391 with p= 0.005). There were no other significant relationships between variables. Conclusion: These findings have applications for developing educational programming and curriculum that may help equip Doctor of Occupational Therapy Students with the skills they need to thrive in their future profession. Additionally, opportunities exist for OTD students to increase EI and improve stress management levels and improve overall wellness.

Author Bio(s)

Heidi A Carpenter, OTD, OTR/L, RYT is an Assistant Professor and Academic Fieldwork Coordinator in the Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program at Huntington University Arizona.

Chelsey Edwards, OTD, OTR/L, CLT is the Program Lead for the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy Program at Huntington University.

Dr. Scott Richardson PT, PhD is an Associate Professor at Franklin Pierce University in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.


The authors would like to thank their institutions for their support.




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