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J Dent Educ. 2013 Apr;77(4):416-26.

What is the relationship between emotional intelligence and dental student clinical performance?

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School of Dental Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-4905, USA.


Emotional intelligence has emerged as a key factor in differentiating average from outstanding performers in managerial and leadership positions across multiple business settings, but relatively few studies have examined the role of emotional intelligence in the health care professions. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between emotional intelligence (EI) and dental student clinical performance. All third- and fourth-year students at a single U.S. dental school were invited to participate. Participation rate was 74 percent (100/136). Dental students' EI was assessed using the Emotional Competence Inventory-University version (ECI-U), a seventy-two-item, 360-degree questionnaire completed by both self and other raters. The ECI-U measured twenty-two EI competencies grouped into four clusters (Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management). Clinical performance was assessed using the mean grade assigned by clinical preceptors. This grade represents an overall assessment of a student's clinical performance including diagnostic and treatment planning skills, time utilization, preparation and organization, fundamental knowledge, technical skills, self-evaluation, professionalism, and patient management. Additional variables were didactic grade point average (GPA) in Years 1 and 2, preclinical GPA in Years 1 and 2, Dental Admission Test academic average and Perceptual Ability Test scores, year of study, age, and gender. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted. The Self-Management cluster of competencies (b=0.448, p<0.05) and preclinical GPA (b=0.317, p<0.01) were significantly correlated with mean clinical grade. The Self-Management competencies were emotional self-control, achievement orientation, initiative, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, and optimism. In this sample, dental students' EI competencies related to Self-Management were significant predictors of mean clinical grade assigned by preceptors. Emotional intelligence may be an important predictor of clinical performance, which has important implications for students' development during dental school.

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