Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Johannah M. Hoch, Ph.D., ATC

Second Advisor

Richard Andreatta, Ph.D., FASHA


Burnout and social isolation have become critical threats to optimal health and well-being, with detrimental effects specifically impacting healthcare profession (HCP) students and providers. The US Surgeon General has labelled burnout a crisis in the health workforce and named loneliness an epidemic with profound consequences for mortality and collective longevity. HCP students are heavily and disproportionately affected by stress and burnout compared to their peers, resulting in negative consequences on academic performance, mental health, empathy, and compassion satisfaction. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a learnable skillset shown to protect against burnout and enhance relational skills, well-being, personal and professional satisfaction, and resilience in these populations. However, limited research has examined current EI levels, education, or influence across HCP student disciplines. Furthermore, there is no standardized educational programming to enhance EI in HCP students despite extensive examples in the literature of the personal and professional benefits of higher EI.

Broad evidence to date demonstrates the trainability of EI and positive associations of higher EI to increased happiness and meaningfulness at work, improved conflict/stress management, and improved clinical and social competence. However, little research has adequately highlighted the content utilized to improve EI or evaluated clinical translatability of EI skillsets. Service-learning (SL) theory is a recognized learning strategy that functions through intentional connection of course content and learning outcomes to community service and reflective inquiry. SL has positive associations to student improvements in academic performance, attitudes toward learning, self-efficacy, and social skills, but has never been adapted from community service application to clinical education application. Additionally, increasing focus on the underlying science, physiological mechanisms, and experimental studies associated with EI to provoke increased interest from HCP students engaged in evidence-based fields has yet to be evaluated. Applying these strategies in tandem with SL theory may boost learning and application of EI skills in patient care scenarios. Examining the efficacy of this novel juxtaposition may provide insight into best practice for promoting EI growth and resilience to burnout in HCP students.

The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the relationship between EI and burnout in HCP students and improve our understanding of educational practices to enhance EI in this population. The purposes of the included studies were to demonstrate existing educational practices being utilized to promote EI in HCP students, explore factors related to EI and burnout and better understand the instruments utilized to measure these constructs, and explore a novel strategy for integration of EI development into clinical education frameworks by determining the efficacy of an evidence based EI educational intervention to decrease burnout in this population.

The results of these studies indicate a high prevalence of burnout in HCP students (63.3%) and demonstrate that higher EI is associated with reduced levels of burnout in this population. Mindfulness practice and previous EI education were also associated with higher EI. EI theory, interpersonal factors, communication, group problem-solving, and self-awareness were identified as the primary curricular themes associated with the greatest improvements in EI in HCP students, with group discussion or brainstorming, sharing of feelings, role-play, and scenario-based learning identified as the most efficacious activities. Lastly, novel EI intervention strategies using SL reflective practice increased EI and mindfulness and decreased burnout in HCP students following a 4-wk reflection period. The results of this dissertation highlight the necessity of longitudinal emotional and social skill practice, demonstrate the benefits of enhanced EI in HCP students, and support the implementation of EI focused learning in healthcare program professional curricula.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the The National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research & Education Foundation (no: 2223DGP04) in 2023 and by the University of Kentucky Endowed University Professor in Health Sciences Fund (internal, no grant no) in 2023.

Available for download on Friday, May 09, 2025