April 21, 2015

What is it?

There is an increasing amount of literature on the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) for physicians in clinical practice from the perspective of the doctor-patient relationship, team leadership and physician well-being and happiness.

Emotional Intelligence is probably best defined as the ability to manage ourselves and relate to others; it is often defined as street smarts or common sense; or our ability to make our way in a complex world. Emotionally intelligent people form strong relationships, communicate effectively, are authentic, develop trust and cope effectively with difficult circumstances….emotionally unintelligent people do not. In contrast to Cognitive Intelligence (IQ), EI can be learned and developed.

As such, it has the potential to influence several important competencies in the practice of medicine, such as interpersonal communication and team-leadership skills. “The interpersonal and communication skills associated with patient satisfaction have been identified as critical factors for patient adherence to medical treatment regimes.”2 As well, physician happiness and well-being impacts the patient-physician relationship and increased patient satisfaction.

EI training can lead to better work/life balance, help physicians build resilience, cope with stress and experience better physical and psychological health. Self- awareness and being aware of their own emotions are crucial for providing good care to others.

Do you need it? Studies on Emotional Intelligence in Medicine

  • Numerous studies have emphasized the importance of emotional intelligence in Medicine. An article in Medical Education 2010, a literature search of articles on emotional intelligence, determined higher EI was reported to positively contribute to the doctor-patient relationship, increased empathy, teamwork, communication skills, stress management, organizational commitment and leadership. It concluded that “measures of EI correlate with many of the competencies that modern medical curricula seek to deliver”. 1
  • In another study, the results indicated that ‘responding to patients’ emotions’ serves in effective patient communication, resulting in patient satisfaction which is an important measurement of quality of care. Learning the skills of emotional intelligence is instrumental in developing the ability to respond to patient’s emotion.2
  • In a study cited in Family Medicine 2002, the key variable that related to patient satisfaction was physician ‘happiness’. The ‘physician’s own happiness transmits across the patient-physician relationship to increased patient satisfaction with care’. Helping physicians increase their level of personal happiness and life satisfaction may be a good starting point for EI coaching and other educational endeavours.3
  • A study of surgical residents stated that surgeons rely on communication and teamleadership skills to care for complex patients and lead multidisciplinary teams of health care professionals. EI is a tool that can be used for team leadership and communication training.4

Here’s a look at the five Foundations of Emotional Intelligence and the associated skills:

(EQ-i 2.0 Model, Multi Health Systems Inc.)
Self Perception – Emotional Self Awareness, Self Regard, Self Actualization
Self Expression – Emotional Expression, Independence, Assertiveness
Interpersonal – Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, Social Responsibility
Decision Making – Impulse Control, Reality Testing, Problem Solving
Stress Management – Flexibility, Stress Tolerance, Optimism

What is exciting is that not only can our Emotional Intelligence be measured, but it can be improved, no matter how old you are. The EQ-i 2.0 is psychometric assessment (the first scientifically validated measure of EI) which measures emotional intelligence (EI). The report provides an assessment of the skills of EI. By focusing on the three highest and three lowest skills, through training or coaching, you can leverage your strengths and develop the lower areas. The stronger your Emotional Intelligence, the greater your chances for personal and professional success and well-being.

References and Resources

1. Emotional Intelligence in Medicine: a systematic review through the context of the ACGME competencies; Medical Education 2010: 44: 749-764
2. Responding to Patients’ Emotions: Important for Standardized Patient Satisfaction. Fam Med 2000;32(5):326-30
3. Physician’s Emotional Intelligence and Patient Satisfaction; Fam Med 2002;34(10):750-4
4. The Emotional Intelligence of surgical residents: a descriptive study; The American Journal of Surgery 195 (2008) 5-10
5. The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success; Steven Stein PH.D and Howard Book, M.D.; Jossey-Bass.
6. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence; Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee; Harvard Business School Press

This article was written by Heather Erhard, Director, Erhard Associates, a management consulting, coaching and training firm dedicated to enhancing individual, team and organizational effectiveness.