Nurses: EQ versus IQ

Most everyone is aware that your IQ is a measure of your intelligence, but are you aware that there is also such a thing as emotional intelligence, and that nurses can sharpen their “EQ” (Emotional Quotient) in order to empower and improve the nursing care that they deliver to patients?

Emotional Intelligence 101

Emotional intelligence (EI) was introduced in the 1960s, and it was made part of mainstream culture in the 1990s by Daniel Goleman.  His book, Emotional Intelligence), was just the beginning of what would become a focus for many thoughtful professionals seeking self-development, as well as organizations wishing to create healthier teams and communication strategies.

Psychology Today defines EI the following way:

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills:

1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;

2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;

3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

Nurses And Emotional Intelligence

If we take the Psychology Today definition of EI at face value, it’s fairly easy to see how nurses with a higher EQ can be more effective colleagues and clinicians.

A nurse who is able to manage and harness her own emotions in the interest of problem-solving and patient communication can utilize therapeutic use of self and empathy in the process of being present with patients and their families. Such a nurse can also provide more effective and compassionate patient and family education, as well as maintain optimal communication within the multidisciplinary team.

Empathy and compassion are two characteristics frequently attributed to (and expected of) nurses, and nurses who apply themselves to the development of their EQ will be more effective in this regard.

Nurse-Nurse Relations

With bullying and so-called “lateral violence” prevalent within the nursing profession, we can make a safe assumption that proactively educating nurses in the skills and knowledge of emotional intelligence can only serve to improve relationships between nurses.

Those nurses who have learned the skills of emotional intelligence and improved their EQ are presumably much less likely to engage in aberrant behavior at work; they are also more likely to use their EQ in order to stand up to bullies, resist being bullied, and protect their colleagues who experience on-the-job harassment or intimidation.

A nurse with a high EQ is sensitive to his or her environment, can sense the nuances of verbal and non-verbal communication, and use his or her emotional intelligence to intervene and assert themselves in meaningful and healthy ways when such intervention is called for.

EQ And Nursing Leadership

Emotionally intelligent nurse leaders can be a boon to nursing and workplace culture, as well as nursing education. When nurse leaders embrace EI as an important aspect of nursing and truly walk their talk, they send a signal to staff members that emotional intelligence is key to success and positive outcomes for both patients and clinicians. When a nurse leader models healthy communication and leads in a way that fosters the same, everyone benefits.

Nursing leadership can be key to bringing emotional intelligence into environments where nurses are employed, but nurse leaders must be willing to do the work to make the development of EI a central institutional value.

Nurses Can Lead The Way

As the largest segment of the larger healthcare industry, nurses can lead the way in bringing emotional intelligence to the fore. When nurses improve their EQ, their personal and professional growth can ripple out to touch the lives of doctors, physical therapists, housekeeping, administration, and every other group within the workplace milieu.

Nurse can individually and collectively spearhead the increasing influence of emotional intelligence in medicine and nursing, improving patient care, staff morale, workplace culture, nursing education, and nurse wellness.


About Keith

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Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist.

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms, as well as at NurseKeith.com.