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Why Emotional Intelligence is Crucial in Healthcare

September 10, 2015
EQ, Healthcare Marketing

I’m a big advocate for emotional intelligence, as you can see from my post in July. Emotional intelligence can bring many benefits to an individual as well as an entire organization.

Working at a marketing agency that specializes in healthcare marketing, I am really intrigued by how powerful and necessary emotional intelligence is in the healthcare industry, a fact that every hospital system should take into account. 

Patient Care and Loyalty

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, control and evaluate one’s emotions – in oneself and others – and to use that information appropriately.

According to the Daniel Goleman book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, emotional competencies (empathy, social awareness and understanding others) are critical in the patient/physician relationship. Sensing what others feel without their saying so captures the essence of empathy. Physicians who were better at recognizing emotions in their patients and who listened more were able to treat them more accurately and, therefore, develop long-lasting relationships with these patients to keep them coming back.

Being able to sense anxiety and discomfort in patients and make them feel at ease is essential to treating them appropriately. A study published in the journal, PLOS One, found that a physician’s bedside manner can also greatly affect patients’ health, aiding weight loss, lowering blood pressure and managing painful symptoms.

During the study, researchers examined 13 randomized, controlled trials that involved outcomes such as weight loss and variation in blood pressure and compared them to trials that study measures such as patient satisfaction or reported pain scores. The study found that the patient-clinician relationship has a small, but statistically significant, effect on healthcare outcomes.

Communication is also a key essential in assuring patients get the care they need. It is imperative that physicians become more empathetic and take the time to truly listen and understand their patients’ concerns. Physicians are too often criticized for not listening to their patients. In When Doctors Don’t Listen, two emergency room physicians, Lean Wen and Joshua Kosowsky, reveal that many physicians often do, in fact, tune out a patient’s full story when seeking a diagnosis and are quick to order unnecessary tests and often misdiagnose. This leads to patient frustration and dissatisfaction.

The more physicians are able to be emotionally intelligent, listen and properly diagnose their patients, the more those patients will continue to return to that physician. If patients are feeling like they are not being heard, they will look elsewhere to get the care they need. I, for one, can attest to that. 

Physician Reputation

When physicians are high in emotional intelligence and are able to be more understanding and accurately treat their patients, not only does this lead to patient loyalty, but it also leads to more patients. Why? Because word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most valuable and trusted forms of marketing, since consumers are more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family.

When patients have great experiences, they are more willing to recommend their physicians to others as well as post their experiences on social media platforms or write great reviews – which leads to more patients. More patients means a better bottom line. 

Stress Adaption

Working in healthcare can bring a lot of stress to physicians and nurses. Many times patients’ lives are left in their hands and it is their job to properly diagnose and treat the patients all while handling the many other organizational responsibilities they are tasked with.

Having high emotional intelligence allows physicians and nurses to be more aware of their own emotions and therefore better able to manage them in stressful situations.

Working in healthcare can be very emotional and it is imperative that caregivers use techniques to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, communicate effectively and manage their emotions in healthy ways. 

Employee Retention

Studies suggest that emotional intelligence affects a person’s mental health and well-being. Therefore, those higher in emotional intelligence often live happier and more stress-free lives since they are more aware of their emotions and the emotions of others and can properly manage stressful situations. This is especially applicable to healthcare workers.

Studies have also shown that nurses high in emotional intelligence are not only able to provide better care for their patients by being more empathetic, but are generally much happier when providing that care. Therefore they have lower rates of job turnover.

And not only is it important to be able to better connect and empathize with patients in the healthcare industry, but with colleagues as well. There are many different roles in healthcare settings and it is important that everyone is able to work as a team. People want to work with people with whom they feel comfortable and people tend to perform better when they do so. Those high in emotional intelligence are able to build better working relationships through understanding others and being more attentive to emotional cues.

It’s important for leaders and co-workers to use emotional intelligence in acknowledging and rewarding people’s strengths and accomplishments and offering useful feedback to identify their needs for growth. According to Working with Emotional Intelligence, mentoring helps employees perform better, enhances loyalty and job satisfaction, leads to promotions and pay increases, and lowers rates of turnover.

These are just a few examples of how the healthcare industry can benefit from emotional intelligence. It is also important and encouraging to know that emotional intelligence, and hence empathy skills – those most crucial in the healthcare field –can be enhanced at any stage of a healthcare practitioner’s professional development. I assure you, taking the time to read up on the subject will not only benefit you and your healthcare organization, but will enhance your personal life as well. 

Kaylee McInnis

Kaylee McInnis is an Account Manager at Brown Parker & DeMarinis. With vast experiences in the marketing and advertising industry, she is an expert at managing projects to make sure they are done on deadline and within budget.

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