Preparing Students to Respond to Heightened Emotions in Field Practice

A Multi-Disciplinary Study


  • Karen Healy The University of Queensland
  • Marion Tower The University of Queensland
  • Glenda Hawley The University of Queensland


Field Education, Health and social work professions, Heightened emotions, Emotion regulation


Students in social work, nursing and midwifery often encounter heightened emotions in themselves and others while on placement. In this paper we report on a pilot study of social work, nursing, midwifery students’ perceptions of their educational preparation for responding to heightened emotions on placement and their views about an educational intervention we designed to assist them in responding to these.

Our study involved an initial survey of 36 students across the three disciplines. In the survey we focused on identifying the types of emotions students expected to encounter in themselves and patients or service users during placement. We also sought information about participants’ confidence in responding to these emotions. Participants (25) then agreed to participate in an educational intervention introducing them to concepts of emotion regulation and evidence-informed principles responding to heightened emotions in themselves and in others.

Participants anticipated experiencing a range of heightened emotions while on placement and were concerned about their ability to manage these emotions. We report on participants’ perceptions of the usefulness of the educational intervention and their suggestions for improving student preparation for understanding and responding to heighted emotions in practice.

Author Biographies

Karen Healy, The University of Queensland

School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, Level 3, The Chamberlain Building, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Marion Tower, The University of Queensland

School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, Level 3, The Chamberlain Building, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Glenda Hawley, The University of Queensland

School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, Level 3, The Chamberlain Building, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


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