Nursing With Emotional Intelligence

Although cognitive intelligence (IQ) is important in nursing, another type of intelligence is increasingly recognized as important for success. Emotional intelligence allows nurses to form healthy, supportive relationships with co-workers and patients and also hone critical decision-making and leadership skills.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others.” High emotional intelligence has been identified as potentially even more essential to success as traditional IQ. It consists of the following five categories:

  1. Self-awareness. This includes emotional awareness, or your ability to recognize your own true feelings and anticipate the consequences of those feelings. The way you view your intrinsic worth and capabilities falls into this category also.
  2. Self-regulation. We have little control over when certain emotions will hit, but we can retain some autonomy over how long they linger and to what extent. Practicing impulse control, taking responsibility for our actions and being open to change are ways to self-regulate challenging emotions and ward off stress and burnout.
  3. Motivation. To achieve one’s goals, attitude and mindset matter. Maintaining a positive and forward-thinking outlook helps you remain committed and driven to find your way, especially in the face of adversity.
  4. Empathy. In order to truly connect with others, it’s essential to develop an understanding of how they feel and why. This allows you to quickly assess a person’s needs, explore the differences and similarities between yourself and other individuals and recognize any power dynamics at play. It is important to remember that empathizing with someone’s situation or plight does not mean that you accept the behavior that brought them to the present situation.
  5. Social skills. Interpersonal communication is critical in all areas of life, but perhaps even more so in the workplace. Honing these skills makes it possible to communicate with a wide range of personalities, initiate or influence necessary changes, build relationships, work in a team, and lead others.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important for Nurses?

Emotional intelligence is important for nurses because it can increase your effectiveness as a caretaker, enhance relationships with patients and colleagues, and advance your career. It has been associated with the following:

Improved patient satisfaction and safety. A 2017 Journal of Patient Preference and Adherence study found that patient satisfaction increased when nurses displayed higher levels of emotional intelligence, such as being empathetic and in control of their emotions. Nurses’ emotional intelligence may also positively correlate with patient safety, according to a 2017 American Journal of Nursing study.

Strengthened nurse-patient relationships. When patients know that nurses respect their feelings and will listen instead of just lecturing or laying blame, a level of trust begins to form that can strengthen the nurse-patient bond. As trust builds and communication flows more easily, nurses are able to identify previously unmet needs that have the potential to boost outcomes such as medication and treatment adherence.

Enhanced teamwork and leadership. A nurse who exhibits high emotional intelligence is also an asset to co-workers. The same skills used to establish relationships with patients can be funneled into more effective communication with colleagues, likely bolstering teamwork and collaboration. Nurses who possess these traits frequently excel in leadership positions, with their decision-making capabilities, willingness to express appreciation for others’ contributions, management of their emotions and steadfast commitment to continuous learning and improvement serving them well.

Emotional IQ

Nurses are often thought of as largely focused on the physical aspect of caregiving. However, the extent of emotional support, understanding and guidance given to patients and colleagues should not be underestimated. A well-developed emotional intelligence helps nurses navigate stressful situations, cultivate rapport and improve patient care.

Learn more about Youngstown State University’s online RN to BSN program.


American Journal of Nursing: Could Emotional Intelligence Make Patients Safer?

American Medical Association: Building Patient Trust to Support Medication Adherence

Journal of Patient Preference and Adherence: The Relationship Between Patient Satisfaction and Emotional Intelligence Skills of Nurses Working in Surgical Clinics

Nursing Management: Nurse Leader Emotional Intelligence — How Does It Affect Clinical Nurse Job Satisfaction?

Open Nursing Journal: Nurse Managers’ Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership: A Review of the Current Evidence

Psych Central: What Is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Psychology Today: What Is Emotional Intelligence?

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