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Emotional Intelligence in Healthcare : A Felt Need

Emotional intelligence (E.I) has been quoted as an attribute which can improve the quality of work, increase productivity and help in personal and organizational success. Interest in EI arose from Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’, which convened that success depended more on the ability to understand and control emotions than on IQ. One of the most appropriate definitions of E.I. is “a set of abilities (verbal and non-verbal) that enable a person to generate, recognize, express, understand and evaluate their own and others’ emotions in order to guide thinking and action and successfully cope with environmental demands and pressures”.

It is stated that people with a high degree of emotional intelligence are usually motivated, highly productive, love challenges, and are very effective in whatever they do. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious (as in case of patient care). Hence, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others. Various models have been developed to measure E.I.; the most commonly quoted is the Golemans original model which outlines five main E.I constructs – self-awareness, self-management, social skills, empathy and two core emotional competencies –personal competence and social competence. EI skills are grounded in personal competence, upon which depend the skills for social competence, including social awareness and relationship management.

“More than prescriptions, medicine involves communication, tolerance, flexibility, listening, hard work and a passion for the practice.”
Most complaints about doctors relate to poor communication and not their clinical competence. Improving communication in health care is a current area of interest in policy and practice. Models of E.I. emphasize on insights into one’s own and others’ emotions and this might be an explanation for why some practitioners appear to be better at delivering patient centered care. Further, assessing and discriminating patient’s emotions could impact the quality and accuracy of history taking and diagnosis. Additionally, if clinicians are able to understand patients’ emotional reactions to prescribed treatments or lifestyle advice they may be better able to understand why some treatments are more or less acceptable to some patients.

Healthcare professionals must attend to varying levels of health literacy in patients and families and face many challenges – challenges in communication including the exchange of information, building of a relationship and repo, engaging in shared decisions or challenges due to limited time and resources, and multiple documentation requirements.

Many health care systems around the world are emphasizing on more patient-centered care. By being empathetic, improving interactions and relationships with patients, healthcare professionals and administration, one can implement the principles of the patient-centeredness, which can significantly influence patient outcomes and overall success of an organization.

All effective leaders are united by one essential feature-a high level of development of emotional intelligence”.
As per Daniel Goleman it is emotional intelligence and not IQ or technical skills that distinguish great leaders from merely good ones. There is positive correlation between E.I, leadership, communication, interpersonal skills and effectiveness of a team. By being skilled in E.I. healthcare leaders can understand, engage and motivate their team. These skills are essential for dealing well with conflict and creating workable solutions to complex problems in healthcare. The leader’s E.I. skills strongly impact the culture of the organization.

Skills required for healthcare leaders to succeed generally fall into two categories: hard and soft skills .For physicians in particular, but also for many other healthcare leaders, “hard skills” are the technical skills traditionally emphasized in training. The “soft skills” are strategic skills which include interpersonal and communication skills and emotional intelligence. These, until recently, have received far less attention in formal training for either medicine, nursing or healthcare administration.

As defined by Reuven Bar-On, a pioneer researcher in the field of E.I., emotional intelligence is, “an array of non-cognitive (emotional and social) capabilities, competencies, and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures”. Needless to say healthcare and public health are fields fraught with environmental demands and pressures with which leaders must endlessly cope.

Promoting one’s own emotional intelligence can have an impact on the E.I.skills and behaviors of co-workers and team members’. Though, use of logic and reason in decision making and interaction are important, so is the recognition that humans are primarily emotional animals.

As aptly stated by Stein and Book, “regardless of how brainy we may be, if we turn others off with abrasive behavior, are unaware of how we are presenting ourselves or cave in under minimal stress, no one will stick around long enough to notice our high IQs”.

To conclude, contemporary healthcare has new challenges which require new strategies to cope with them. Emotional intelligence is a valid strategy and can address some of those challenges well. Strategies that facilitate strong E.I. skill development could prove exceptionally helpful to healthcare workers and leaders alike. It is general agreement that E.I. skills are a felt need. Healthcare workers must undergo training to enhance their EI abilities along with clinical skills to perceive patients’ emotions and manage them better, which will lead to better patient care outcome and improve the doctor-patient relationship.

Guest Editor
Dr. Anila Sharma
Sr. Consultant, Pathology Department, RGCIRC

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Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Center or RGCIRC is the largest tertiary healthcare centre in Asia. Since our inception in 1996 in New Delhi, India, we have helped patients from across the sub-continent, SAARC countries and other places for diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancers. We bring cutting-edge technology while offering super specialised care in Medical. Surgical and Robotic oncology. Our alliances with internationally renowned institutes have helped us become pioneers in new approaches to treating cancer.

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