Essay Preview: Emotional Intelligence
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Emotional intelligence has been considered imperative in communication between healthcare workers and patients in a health setting. This essay tends to explore and discuss the concept of emotional intelligence used in a health setting. After this introduction, the concept of emotional intelligence is explained and discussed, then there is further discussion of how healthcare workers should apply the concept into communication practice, followed by the benefits emotional intelligence could bring to healthcare workers and persons receiving care using literature and relevant examples, finally a brief conclusion is drawn at the end of this essay.Emotional intelligence, often referred to as Emotional Intelligence Quotient as well, is the ability of a person to perceive, manage and assess his/her own emotions and other people’s emotions. According to Mayer, Salovey and Caruso (2008, p.503), emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to monitor feelings and emotions of one’s own self and of other people, to discriminate these feelings and emotions and use the information to control thinking and actions. Emotional intelligence consists of four main components, which are the ability to perceive feelings and emotions, utilize emotions to perform tasks or activities, understand causes and effects of emotional variations, and successfully manage emotions to accomplish goals. Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee (2013, p.254) claimed that two types of emotional intelligence are distinguished, one is “interpersonal”, which refers to the ability to understand and have insight into others and work well with them, the other one is “intrapersonal”, which is involved with the ability of self-awareness, recognising emotions and how these affect other people. Emotional intelligence is demanded in a lot of industries, but it is particularly essential in health setting (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee 2013, p.253). Health care workers tend to face many similar challenges that their counterparts may experience in other industries, e.g. high pressure, limited resources, complex demands, just to name a few. But one unique difference is the challenge in health care is usually people in distress. Health care institutions – hospitals, clinics, aged care homes etc. are settings of intensity and a myriad of human emotions. Therefore, emotional intelligence forms an integral part of health care workers in health setting (Nightingale et al 2018, p.106). The healthcare sector requires that health care workers, such as surgeons, physicians and nurses to interact with patients and peer colleagues in the process of care constantly. The interaction is more than just conversation, it is indeed a complex process involves perception from health care workers, understanding of patient emotions, and to manage the situation by using emotional intelligence towards the desired goal of sound patient care and engaging with people in an efficient way (Nightingale et al. 2018, p.107).For example, emotional intelligence is very much needed when nurses are interacting with a senior patient whose hearing capacity is at a low level, or whose visual perceptions diminish because of aging. Another case in point is when some patients will die due to diseases such as HIV or cancer despite best efforts have been made by healthcare workers, patients and their families are supposedly quite upset or angry, and they may easily express their distressful feeling to health care workers. In situations like these nurses have the responsibility to confront and manage both their and the patient’s family’s emotions, and emotional intelligence plays a key role in the communicating process and outcome.
Learning the concept and being aware of emotional intelligence is different from applying emotional intelligence knowledge into the communication process with patients, especially when healthcare workers are overwhelmed by stress which can easily override the original intentions. Establishing effective discourse with a person receiving care is more than just words and intrapersonal, interpersonal skills which are critical during communication. In order to change behaviours in a better way when under pressure and complex situations, there are five aspects for healthcare workers to apply emotional intelligence and improve communicating abilities with persons receiving care: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, taking a holistic approach and relationship management.The first aspect to use emotional intelligence is being able to use emotions to make constructive decisions about communication. Self-managing emotions do not mean a healthcare worker should show emotions but being able to ensure emotions under control and not letting emotions control themselves (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee 2013, p.255). Being able to self-managing emotions will specifically help a healthcare worker if he/she tends to lose the temper when hearing something really irritating or upset from the person receiving care. Words may be explained unintentional but they might still raise communication barriers between healthcare workers and people receiving care. Moreover, when a health care worker become overly stressed or burnout, he/she may easily lose control of emotions as well as the ability to communicate thoughtfully and appropriately. With the ability to manage emotions and stay emotionally present, a healthcare worker is more capable of controlling impulsive feelings and taking initiatives during communication.The second aspect of using emotional intelligence is being able to connect to emotions after the first step of managing stress and emotions. For a healthcare worker, being aware of emotions of themselves is of equal importance as managing emotions, if not the most (Wilson 2014, p.459). Being able to feel connections to the emotions, that is having a connection with the changing emotional experience, is crucial to understand how emotions may influence communications. For a healthcare worker, having awareness of what the feelings are can assist him/her to control the emotions, and sometimes they may need to withdraw themselves from the situation so to regain the composure. Fully aware of their emotions and the ability to identify what specific situation or influence can trigger them, enable healthcare workers to decipher the emotional state of the person receiving care, which in turn facilitate the mutual understanding, communication, and empathy (Wilson 2014, p.459).The third aspect to facilitate healthcare worker – patient communication by using emotional intelligence is social awareness. Using social awareness enables a healthcare worker to recognize and interpret nonverbal cues that are commonly used for communicating by persons receiving care. As Pawlikowska et al. (2012, p.71) claimed, non-verbal interaction plays a pivotal role in nurse-patient perceptions. Pawlikowska et al. (2012, p.72) also stated that non-verbal communications include but not limited to direct eye gaze, smiling, head nod, leaning forward and touch. Non-verbal cues enable a healthcare worker to know how the patient is really feeling, how the patient’s emotional state has been changing from moment to moment, and what subtle yet significant details could be observed. Therefore, any one of health care workers in a health setting should constantly learn and improve their abilities to possess non-verbal skills and read body languages from persons receiving care.