Nursing students' personal qualities: A descriptive study

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Journal Article
Nurse Education Today, 2014, 34 (9), pp. 1196 - 1200
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Background: Reports of a lack of compassionate care from nurses have resulted in calls to integrate the assessment of personal qualities into nursing student selection, with the intent to recruit individuals whose attributes reflect those desired in the practising nurse. Whilst nursing programmes are able to determine students' academic abilities on enrolment limited attention has been given to other qualities. Although there is an understanding of the qualities desired in the practising nurse, to date there has been limited exploration of nursing students' personal qualities as they enter nursing programmes and whether these change over time. Aims: To describe the personal qualities of newly enrolled Bachelor of Nursing students, and to determine if these qualities are age and gender specific and whether they change over time. Methods: The Personal Qualities Assessment (PQA; was completed by 138 nursing students on enrolment and repeated after three years. Results: Twenty four percent of students had PQA scores at the extreme ends (±. 2 SD) of the continuum of one or more sub-scale distributions. Significant positive correlations were found between age and the PQA measured traits: self-control, resilience, narcissism, empathy and moral orientation. Females were significantly more conscientious, community orientated and involved; males had significantly higher narcissism and aloofness scores and lower empathy. For those students (n. = 28) who completed the follow-up PQA, their personal qualities scores did not change. Conclusion: Most of the study sample possessed mid-range personal quality trait scores, but approximately a quarter of the nursing students recorded extreme scores. Older students were found to have a higher measure of self-control, resilience, empathy and narcissism and more communitarian in attitude. Significant differences were found between males' and females' scores. That personal qualities were unchanged after three years suggests the importance of incorporating the assessment of these qualities into selection and recruitment of nursing students. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
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