Exploring the Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Healthcare

Exploring the Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Healthcare - Toolshero

Are you considering a career in healthcare in the United States? If you’re thinking about becoming a doctor or undertaking fast-track nursing programs online, there’s so much to consider. For one, you’ve got to pick a lane and stick to it. Will you study medicine, nursing or another related healthcare profession? Will you study online or on campus? Full-time or part-time? There’s so much to consider and that’s before you’ve even commenced study. Then, once you’ve completed your studies, you need to pick a specialization and get the relevant clinical experience. For instance, you might want to become a psychiatric nurse, or a psychiatrist, or even an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist.

And there’s more than just clinical knowledge and expertise when it comes to working as a healthcare professional. You need to have a variety of other skills as well, such as time management, teamwork, organization and more. Depending on the role you take, you’ll find yourself in challenging and demanding situations. One skill that has to be learned and developed that is indispensable in healthcare is emotional intelligence. This helpful article will explore the importance of this soft skill in a healthcare setting, so read on to learn more.

Emotional Intelligence Defined

Emotional intelligence is a skill you can learn, like any other. It is also commonly known as emotional quotient or EQ, and it is defined by the ability to understand, manage and utilize your own emotional responses and feelings, positively. Emotional intelligence comes into play when we try to relieve stress, communicate effectively with our colleagues, empathize with others (including patients), overcome challenges and solve conflicts. Emotional intelligence can help you develop stronger relationships, succeed in your vocation, and achieve your personal and career goals. It can also help you to get in tune with your feelings, turn positive intentions into action, and make informed decisions about what is important to you.

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Emotional intelligence can be broken down into these four key elements:

  • Self-management: being able to manage yourself, your emotions and your responses to events that occur around and to you.
  • Self-awareness: being in tune with yourself, your thought process and your emotional reactions to events and other people’s behaviour.
  • Social awareness: how you navigate social settings and situations, as all workplaces, including healthcare settings, are social spaces.
  • Relationship management: how you manage and interact with other people, how you exist in relationships with others, such as your colleagues.

Emotional Intelligence & Its Role in Healthcare

We’ll spend the next portion of this article explaining why this soft skill is an essential one to nurture, develop and practice while working in healthcare, so you can see how important it is.
Connecting and Working with Patients

When people access healthcare, it’s because they have a health issue. This will either be an acute problem, such as a broken limb, injury or temporary illness, or a chronic issue, such as a permanent disease, ongoing mental health issue or other ongoing condition. In either case, people accessing any form of healthcare are usually at their most vulnerable. They will be distressed, upset, in pain and in need of a caring, sympathetic and empathetic response from their treating clinician team.

This is where emotional intelligence comes into the mix. You’ve probably heard of the term ‘bedside manner’, which is actually a term used to describe how a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional interacts with a patient. The term comes because you usually interact with a patient while they’re lying in a hospital bed. If you come across as annoyed, brusque, short or impatient with someone receiving healthcare treatment, it will compound their already fragile state. You need to be able to control your emotions and come across as friendly, compassionate and caring. Even if they’re being difficult due to their circumstances, you need to maintain your professional manner using emotional intelligence. The one exception here is in the case of abuse, aggression or intimidation. Most hospitals and medical centres will have policies in place to deal with patients misbehaving, which usually involves escalating the issue to security or the local authorities.
Working with Other Professionals - Toolshero

Working with Other Professionals

As a healthcare professional, you’ll need to be able to work well in a team. This applies to most healthcare professionals, even experts such as neurosurgeons or plastic surgeons. For instance, surgeons need a whole team in the theatre to perform a surgery successfully. Nurses work in teams, as do other healthcare clinicians. Having good emotional intelligence is absolutely vital to working well in a team, as teams are made up of human beings, and we’re emotional creatures at our core.

The healthcare field involves working in some high-stress, high-pressure environments, so disagreements, disputes or even arguments with your co-workers is to be expected. But being able to navigate these challenging situations while maintaining a cool head is essential to your well-being at work, as well as to the relationships you need to maintain in order to do your job effectively. Using emotional intelligence when you work with others, even when you’re getting along well, is so crucial for nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers.

It Protects and Promotes Self-Care

Another reason emotional intelligence is vital to develop and nurture in healthcare work settings is due to the impact of the work. Depending on your role, you might be exposed to traumatic events on a daily basis. For instance, working in an emergency department as a nurse, you’ll see people in all sorts of states: gunshot wounds, broken limbs, crushed bodies and more. You will lose patients as well, as not everyone can be saved. This can have a profound impact on your psyche and well-being, and emotional intelligence can help you manage this impact.

For instance, being in tune with your emotions can enable you to discern when you’re not coping and you need a break from work. A well-developed EQ will also help you to avoid lashing out at others, either your colleagues at work or your loved ones at home.

Self-care is vital for healthcare workers and can be challenging to implement, especially if you’re working long, split shifts or are a doctor in residence. The sheer volume of hours you work can make it difficult to sustain a good practice of looking after yourself. Still, it’s essential for the longevity of your career and its sustainability.

Emotional intelligence can help you to develop resilience, discipline and other essential qualities that healthcare workers need to work on to be effective in their roles.

This helpful article has explored the importance of emotional intelligence in a healthcare setting, and why EQ is vital to develop, nurture and practice as a doctor, nurse or other healthcare worker. You’ve learned why it’s essential and how it is used in this vital service setting.

Vincent van Vliet
Article by:

Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.

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