Emotional Intelligence and Nursing

Kim Maryniak, PhD, RNC-NIC, NEA-BC

Emotional Intelligence

The concept of emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) emerged over 20 years ago and still applies today. Emotional intelligence is described as the ability to monitor or handle one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence involves recognizing feelings, self-monitoring or awareness, how emotions impact relationships and how they can be managed. Motivation, empathy and social skills can all be impacted by emotional intelligence (Codier & Codier, 2017; Raghubir, 2018).

Emotional intelligence includes:
  •   The ability to feel but also correctly identify emotions, both in self and in others
  •   Using these emotions to assist reasoning
  •   Having the capability to understand feelings
  •   Managing one’s emotions
  •   Controlling emotional situations

These components can be described as:
  •   Self-awareness: the ability to recognize emotions
  •   Self-regulation: the ability to control emotions and think before acting
  •   Motivation, in relation to emotional intelligence: the inclination to follow goals with energy and tenacity
  •   Empathy: the understanding of other’s emotions and social skills, including the ability to build and manage relationships
(Codier & Codier, 2017; Raghubir, 2018)

In healthcare, there is a need to have effective leaders, a trusting environment with a valuable team, critical thinking, and quality patient and family centered care. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between emotional intelligence and positive patient outcomes. This includes clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and the ability to develop therapeutic relationships. Team performance and morale have also been found to be related to emotional intelligence, including positive conflict resolution rather than hostile environments or horizontal violence. Nursing retention, job satisfaction, and engagement have also been associated with emotional intelligence (Codier & Codier, 2017; Raghubir, 2018).

Development of emotional intelligence can have positive results on many levels, and it requires self-reflection and work on the self, which is not always easy to do. Tools are available to assess emotional intelligence. Additionally, as individuals, we should look for feedback on our behavior. We need to evaluate the feedback, including reactions of others to our behavior. Self-reflection on how stress is managed and how we deal with emotional reactions to situations is important. We also should develop action plans for ourselves to work on both strengths and opportunities with our emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995). Improving our emotional intelligence will assist us, our team and our patients.

Understanding your personal level of emotional intelligence may prove to be a challenging task. Honest, self-reflection is not always easy. However, taking steps to increase your emotional intelligence will improve your personal and professional relationships.

Codier, E., & Codier, D. (2017). Could emotional intelligence make patients safer? AJN: American Journal of Nursing, 117(7), 58-62.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Raghubir, A. (2018). Emotional intelligence in professional nursing practice: A concept review using Rodgers’s evolutionary analysis approach. International Journal of Nursing Sciences, 5, 126-130.

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