Aims. The aim of this study is to gain insight into the level of emotional intelligence of mental health nurses in the Netherlands.
Background. The focus in research on emotional intelligence to date has been on a variety of professionals. However, little is known about emotional intelligence in mental health nurses.
Method. The emotional intelligence of 98 Dutch nurses caring for psychiatric patients is reported. Data were collected with the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory within a cross-sectional research design.
Results. The mean level of emotional intelligence of this sample of professionals is statistically significant higher than the emotional intelligence of the general population. Female nurses score significantly higher than men on the subscales Empathy, Social Responsibility, Interpersonal Relationship, Emotional Self-awareness, Self-Actualisation and Assertiveness. No correlations are found between years of experience and age on the one hand and emotional intelligence on the other hand.
Conclusions. The results of this study show that nurses in psychiatric care indeed score above average in the emotional intelligence required to cope with the amount of emotional labour involved in daily mental health practice.
Relevance to clinical practice. The ascertained large range in emotional intelligence scores among the mental health nurses challenges us to investigate possible implications which higher or lower emotional intelligence levels may have on the quality of care. For instance, a possible relation between the level of emotional intelligence and the quality of the therapeutic nurse–patient relationship or the relation between the level of emotional intelligence and the manner of coping with situations characterised by a great amount of emotional labour (such as caring for patients who self-harm or are suicidal).