Developing Emotional Intelligence for Good to Great Nurses

As a nurse, you are a knowledgeable and skilled individual. Throughout nursing school, you learned about diseases and their treatments, about new technology and medicines. You’ve had practice in the field, and you are probably a very good nurse.

However, what can help you increase your standing from a good nurse to a great one? While there are a variety of things you can do to boost your skills, one thing that is somewhat simple to focus on is developing your emotional intelligence as a nurse. Here, we’ll look at what that means and how to do it.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” In other words, being emotionally intelligent means that you are capable of understanding and handling your own emotions as well as interacting with others in a way that expresses compassion, empathy, and fairness. Emotional intelligence is a vital part of becoming a good nurse because it indicates that, while you are certainly capable of the physical demands of nursing, you are also adept and dealing with your own emotions and those of others.

Emotional intelligence is both a natural talent and something that can be practiced. Many people seem to be born with a natural ability to relate to others and to be able to identify and deal with their own emotions, both negative and positive. Others appear incapable of dealing with them and seem to lack a bit of self-control. This latter group are not out of luck, though; emotional intelligence, once it is recognized as a needed skill, can be practiced through patience and a variety of therapeutic methods. If you feel that you aren’t a naturally emotionally intelligent person, don’t worry – here are a few things you can focus on to improve your emotional intelligence.

  1. Self-Awareness

This is the first step in becoming emotionally intelligent. Just like any skill that you want to obtain or improve, being aware is the first step. In order to study for an exam, you need to know, or be aware of, what the test will be about. From there, you can proceed to more active steps.

Being self-aware simply means noticing how we act and interact with others, and how our various feelings express themselves within us. Part of being self-aware is going beyond just recognizing how and what we do and goes into what the impact is of those feelings or actions. Realizing the chain of events from emotions to actions to outcomes will help you better yourself as a nurse because it will give you a guide for how to proceed to the following step.

  1. Self-Management

Once you know how you tend to react in certain situations and what type of impact those reactions incur, you’ll better be able to manage yourself. This is extremely helpful for making yourself a better nurse because you will be able to guide your own actions through changing circumstances to have a more desirable outcome. For example, you notice that you lack patience when it comes to patients who are finicky about the meals they are fed, and that impatience leads to you shouting at the patient, you’ll see that those actions (your shouting) encourages the patient to become even more argumentative and resistant to treatment. Once you become aware of this, you can take steps to minimize the damage your impatience causes. You recognize that the patient is probably complaining about the one thing that they might be able to have some control over, because they are stuck in a hospital bed afraid and in pain. Instead of shouting, you offer a snack from the vending machine. Their countenance changes immediately as they accept your generous (yet simple) offer, and they are cooperative for the rest of the day.

By becoming self-aware, you are better able to implement self-management and control how you react to unpleasant situations. As you see how the outcomes change, you’ll be further encouraged to keep practicing self-management.

  1. Social Awareness

Social awareness is much like self-awareness in practice, except you are using your observational skills to detect emotions in others instead of yourself. Being able to sense others’ emotions allows you to understand them and react to them in an appropriate way. It is important to remember that this does not mean reacting to others’ emotions in a similar way as they are acting; if they are experiencing negative emotions and aren’t practicing self-management, you can still react to them in a better way. Remember that patients are often in the hospital or clinic out of necessity and not of choice; having empathy and understanding for these people, even when they are being rude or grumpy, is often the best way to proceed. When in doubt, err on the side of kindness.

  1. Relationship Management

In nursing, most of your relationships will center on conflict. Patients don’t want to go through with tests or injections; coworkers resist doing boring paperwork; bosses are constantly asking you to do things that you just don’t have time for.

Relationship management is the key to making sure there are proper channels of communication for all involved parties and each person has the opportunity to express themselves in a constructive way. Indeed, an important part of maintaining these relationships is the ability to influence them for good and help the other person develop themselves positively. A relationship that is rife with aggression, anger, or blame is one that is not being subjected to high emotional intelligence on either part. On the other hand, a relationship can thrive, even through conflict, if both parties practice self- and social-awareness and self-management.