4 Qualities for Practicing Emotional Intelligence in Emergency Medicine

Posted on Thu, Jul 09, 2015
4 Qualities for Practicing Emotional Intelligence in Emergency Medicine

Part 1 of a series of articles on the importance of developing emotional intelligence for medical professionals

By Marc Milano, MD, FACEP

We meet new people and interact with those we already know in varied situations every day. And as emergency department providers, we encounter more new people in more diverse and stressful situations than most others do. It should be clear that managing these interactions successfully will result in positive outcomes by creating the environment and experience of care that we want for our patients and colleagues.

A concept that helps to both define and inform us about good interactions is that of Emotional Intelligence. I define emotional intelligence as the ability to accurately, and in our case rapidly, discern what matters to another individual or group and use that information to provide mutual benefit.

Many authorities on the subject have suggested that emotional intelligence (EI or sometimes referred to as EQ – emotional quotient) is as important, if not more important, than IQ when it comes to success and happiness in life and work. I completely agree, as I have seen some highly intelligent people (high IQ) fail due to having a low EQ.

The 4 Facets of Emotional Intelligence

There are four basic qualities that embody emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence:

  • Self-Awareness – Recognizing your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and having self-confidence
  • Self-Management – The ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances
  • Social Awareness – The ability to understand the emotions, needs and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization. Empathy is a key here.
  • Relationship Management – Recognizing how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict

A new manager recently came to meet her new staff for the first time. She arrived late to the meeting. She began the introduction with a list of her accomplishments and then launched into her expectations of those she will supervise. She asked no questions of the staff and didn’t encourage their input or feedback.

I can tell you for certain that after the meeting, the staff was not only intimidated, but worse yet, they were NOT engaged. That manager knew going into the meeting that this staff was facing great organizational change and uncertainty, coupled with being confronted with having to acclimate to a new leader.

How could she have done this better by applying emotional intelligence?
She could have shown more respect for the group by coming 5 minutes early, not 5 minutes late. Having the forethought and consideration of how crucial this first interaction would be might have prevented that error.

She could have improved the interaction by making a brief introduction and explaining why her prior experience would help her lead them to success.

Instead of laying down a set of expectations and changes without getting feedback, she would’ve accomplished more by simply asking, “How can I help you achieve your goals?” or asking “What tools do you need from me to do an even better job?” Once she learned the needs of the group, she could use that knowledge to align the group with her goals and those of the organization.

This primer on emotional intelligence will serve as our first foray into a fascinating and important way of changing the way we interact with each other and the world around us. Please visit EmCare’s blog in the future for additional posts on this topic. I encourage you to use the “Comment” feature to let me know your thoughts as well.

Marc A. Milano, MD, FACEP, is chief of the department of emergency medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, N.J. He serves as physician head coach of the Patient Satisfaction Coaching Program at Emergency Medical Associates, an emergency medicine practice headquartered in Parsippany, N.J. Dr. Milano received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, his medical degree from St. George’s University in Grenada, and completed his emergency medicine residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J.

Harry Wingate
Marc, very good article! I would like to see you explore the connection of EQ with Pat Croskerry's work on cognitive bias and how negative emotions interfere with reasonable decision making and care in many common ED scenarios we face every day i.e. dealing with difficult patients, staff conflict and burn out etc. Very rich field of potential insight into how we think and therefore how we ultimately care for our patients . Thank you for diving in :-) Tripp Wingate MD FACEP
7/10/2015 8:08:52 AM