Why Emotional Intelligence is Important For Healthcare

Why Emotional Intelligence is Important For Healthcare
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Practical knowledge and experience will always be important factors in determining top talent in healthcare. However, experts say emotional intelligence (often referred to as EI or EQ)—the ability to perceive, manage and express one’s emotions and to recognize and react appropriately to the emotions of others—is an invaluable social skill successful physicians or nurses should possess to effectively deliver quality patient care. 

People low in EI don’t understand or know how to manage their own emotions, and they don’t know how to read emotions in others, Mark Murphy, Forbes contributor and Founder of Leadership IQ, states. “We see this in employees who struggle to deal with stress, overcome obstacles and resolve conflict, or who fail to meet the needs of coworkers and customers, are negative, blamers, entitled, procrastinators, change resistors, overly sensitive or drama kings and queens,” he says. Today, this is a growing topic of concern for healthcare organizations across the nation as stress and burnout among physicians and nurses become more prevalent.

Recruiting for Emotional Intelligence

According to Murphy, 46 percent of new employees will fail within 18 months of hire—89 percent of the time it’s for attitude, and low EI ranks second in why they fail. Consequently, he recommends posing two questions when vetting new candidates to measure their level of EI:

  1. “Can you tell me about a time you made a mistake at work?”
  • The people you want to hire know it’s acceptable to make mistakes as long as they acknowledge the error, make corrections, help others to avoid making similar errors and move on. Those with low EI don’t take much accountability for their mistakes.
  1. “Can you tell me about a time you got tough feedback from your boss?”
  • Emotionally intelligent people are self-aware, self-confident and open-minded; they have a thick skin that allows them to value and receive critical feedback. People with low EI typically get offended or defensive when presented with tough criticism.

It is also important to listen and observe how candidates respond, Murphy says. For instance, do they rush in with the first thing that comes to mind, or do they take time to answer tough questions, and how comfortable are they in that silence? A candidate’s word choice can provide great insight into whether he or she understands how they are feeling, how others felt, what caused a situation, and how this understanding directed them to act.

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

EI is a key component to effective leadership. Healthcare leaders must have a solid understanding of how their emotions and actions affect the people around them. The better a physician or nurse relates to and works with others, the more adept he or she will be in connecting with patients to understand their needs, acknowledging and managing frustrations, and finding long-term solutions.

American psychologist Daniel Goleman developed an EI framework that includes five components:

  1. Self-awareness - The ability to understand issues or conditions that elevate or permeate emotions.
  2. Self-regulation – The ability to stay calm when emotions are running high.
  3. Motivation – Continuous striving to improve and eager acceptance of challenges.
  4. Empathy – Identifying with and understanding the desires, needs and perspective of others, even when these moods aren’t obvious.
  5. Social skills – Helping others to develop and grow is viewed as more important than focusing on one’s own successes. Managing conflict resolution and fostering strong relationships are also practiced.

To be effective, you must have a solid understanding of how your emotions and actions affect those around you. From staff members to patients, and from recruitment to training, working on the aforementioned key areas can help you excel in your professional and even personal lives. What are some ways EI has impacted your healthcare organization? Please share in the comments section below.

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