Baccalaureate occupational therapy students' development of social and emotional competencies

Mong Lin Yu, Ted Brown, Alana Hewitt, Robert Cousland, Lisa Licciardi, Carissa Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Academic life requiring students to meet academic and professional practice expectations can be stressful. Effective emotional and social competence can assist students in managing feelings, stressful situations and fostering relationships with educators, peers, and clients. Hence this is a helpful professional competence for health students to possess. Objective: To compare the emotional and social competence among the baccalaureate occupational therapy students across four academic year levels. Method: A quantitative cross-sectional design was used. A total of 360 baccalaureate occupational therapy students completed the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory– University Edition. Regression analysis followed by contrast analysis examined the differences among first-, second-, third- and fourth-year levels. Results: Students demonstrated “satisfactory” or above social and emotional competencies. For all students, the average Emotional and Social Competency Inventory subscale scores on teamwork, empathy and achievement orientation were the highest three competencies. The lowest average scores were systems thinking, inspirational leadership and coach and monitor skills. Fourth year students' emotional self-control (p = 0.03), positive outlook (p = 0.02), and influence (p = 0.02) were significantly lower than first-year students. No other significant differences were found between year levels on the other subscales. Conclusion: Overall, students demonstrated good social and emotional competencies, with strengths in teamwork, empathy and achievement orientation competencies, which are fundamental in health service practice. However, fourth-year students demonstrated lower scores in emotional self-control, positive outlook, and influence competencies compared to their first-year peers. This indicates that fourth-year students have developed better self-awareness, can be more reflective and have a better perception of reality. It is recommended that targeted learning opportunities to develop students' emotional and social competencies to nurture final-year students' abilities and confidence be incorporated into the curriculum. Academic and practice education staff working with final year occupational therapy students need to consider the associated stress during this time when providing learning opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105032
Number of pages6
JournalNurse Education Today
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Emotional competence
  • Health education
  • Higher education
  • Occupational therapy
  • Social competence
  • Undergraduate student

Cite this