Investigating perceived stress, emotional intelligence and psychological well-being among first-year Nursing students
The constructs perceived stress, emotional intelligence and psychological well-being are well-described in literature. Research is available with regard to these constructs in the general sense of the healthcare industry but limited focus exists on first-year nursing students, especially within the South African context. This research then focuses specifically on first-year university students enrolled in a nursing programme at a South African university. South Africa faces enormous challenges concerning the nursing profession both at present and will also in the future. South Africa currently experiences a shortage in the nursing profession due to many of the registered nurses emigrating. A reason for this immigration may be linked to the current working conditions in the healthcare industry. This problem is even further exacerbated by the situation that the nursing profession is facing dire dropout rates of nursing students at South African universities. The nursing profession can be regarded as one of the strongest pillars in the healthcare sector and it is therefore essential that attention be turned to not only the unsettling aspects of the nursing profession but also to the nursing student and what can be done to strengthen and retain them. This will assist students in becoming stronger health-care professionals and in minimising the dropout rate of universities, which will lead to more registered nurses being harvested for the profession. For first-year nursing students, there is an intricate balance that needs to be maintained between their practical work, academic requirements and their personal lives as students. It is important for first-year nursing students to realise they are in control of this balance and for the university to realise they have a tremendous influence with respect to the creation of this balance. As soon as first-year nursing students realise the importance of this balance and take control of it, the more it will become a habit for them in their future studies. This research focuses on the role that perceived stress, emotional intelligence and psychological well-being will play. The objective of this research was to determine whether first-year nursing students experience different levels of perceived stress and psychological well-being based on levels of emotional intelligence. Further investigations were undertaken to determine the strength and nature of the relationships between these constructs. This study was performed with a view to gain a better understanding of how these constructs play a role in the life of a first-year nursing student in South Africa, as well as to investigate what the university can do in this respect. The participants in this research were first-year nursing students enrolled in a nursing programme at a university in South Africa. Convenience sampling was used with a population of (N = 110) at the relevant university in South Africa and acquired an 80% participation rate (n = 88). The main priority of sampling the participants was to ensure that they indeed were first-year nursing students. The SPSS and AMOS programmes were used to aid in the statistical analysis, and a cross-sectional research approach was utilised. Descriptive statistics were used to generalise the characteristics of the participants from the sample to the population. The Cronbach Alpha Coefficient was applied to determine the reliability and validity of the questionnaires. The Pearson correlation coefficient was applied to determine the strength and nature of the relationship between perceived stress, emotional intelligence and psychological well-being. Finally, a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was utilised and implemented to determine whether statistically significant differences exist between the means of perceived stress and psychological well-being based on low, moderate and high emotional intelligence. Results found that relationships between perceived stress and psychological well-being; perceived stress and emotional intelligence were both negative and significant. Furthermore, a positive relationship exists between emotional intelligence and psychological well-being. Based on the mean scores, it was found that students are more likely to have lower levels of perceived stress with high emotional intelligence and vice versa. The results, based on the mean scores, indicated that a student with high levels of emotional intelligence was more likely to be found with high levels of psychological well-being and vice versa. Once conclusions were drawn regarding the study, limitations were discussed and therefrom, recommendations were made for future research and practice.