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Why Emotional Intelligence is Essential to Succeed in Healthcare


Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is much more than simply putting on a happy face when interacting with patients. In a healthcare setting, EQ can make all the difference between positive outcomes and engagement – and patients leaving your facility dissatisfied and disillusioned with their care.

As you successfully manage your healthcare team, you need to hire for EQ, foster EQ, and build a culture of EQ if you plan to maintain your leading reputation and brand.

EQ Defined

Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to sense the feelings of those around them and respond accordingly. It plays a critical role in how a healthcare pro communicates and establishes patient relationships. As noted by Paul H. Keckley, Ph.D., of Hospitals & Healthcare Networks, “an organization that does not take EQ in patient care seriously is prone to poor clinical and financial performance. It’s that simple.”

  • EQ is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and actions.
  • The ability to harness your emotions in sensing, understanding, and responding adeptly to social cues in your environment is essential.
  • A basic premise of EQ is that caregivers should be aware of their patients “as a whole,” taking into consideration their biological, psychological and social well-being.

How to Foster EQ

A culture where low EQ is tolerated is prone to poor outcomes, low patient satisfaction, and avoidable errors. If the opposite is true, patients are much more likely to communicate effectively with their caregivers and adhere to their care and treatment plans.

  • EQ impacts every encounter with individuals and their families. It requires an investment in tools and training to monitor progress on an ongoing basis.
  • Look for EQ as you recruit physicians. Research shows a positive correlation between physician EQ and job satisfaction. The MCAT has recently been modified to include a section on the psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior to get at physicians’ EQ. Where a doctor trained and did their residency is an important starting point.
  • EQ must be team based. In addition to physicians, all team members must be part of your EQ culture. Too often, the input of other professionals is disregarded because “the captain (physician) knows best.” Patient care is then compromised because this input is not acknowledged.
  • Don’t overlook cyber care. Be attuned to interactions between caregivers and patients via chat rooms, social networks and tele-visits. Knowing how to probe beneath patients’ questions, build their confidence, and truly engage them requires systemic EQ.

The MedicalPros Recruiting + Staffing team keeps its pulse on the latest developments in healthcare staff development, including the crucial importance of emotional intelligence in building your team. Contact us today so we can discuss ideas for your ongoing HR and branding success.

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