Emotional Intelligence: How It Can Impact Your Nursing Career

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Nursing careers demand an extensive knowledge base and strong technical skills, but there is more to nursing than taking vital signs and administering medications. Registered nurses are also de facto family counselors. Exceptional nurses recognize that patient behaviors are often driven by emotion. By cultivating their own emotional intelligence, nurses are better able to serve their patients and support positive workplace relationships.

Understanding the Principles of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is broadly defined as the perception, evaluation and management of one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. In more practical terms, EI is the awareness of how emotions drive behavior and affect other people, either positively or negatively. The emotionally intelligent nurse is able to manage emotions in order to affect positive change in the workplace. Psychology experts can break down EI into four basic abilities:

  • Correctly identifying the emotions of yourself and others
  • Allowing emotional awareness to inform reasoning
  • Understanding how emotions evolve and influence each other
  • Managing emotions in a proactive, problem-solving way 

Applying Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Situations

The principles of emotional intelligence can be deceptively difficult to apply, even if EI itself seems fairly straightforward. For example, consider the hypothetical example of John, an RN, and Susan, the mother of an adult patient who attempted suicide after a family crisis took place. Susan went to the hospital to visit her child every day and consistently treated the nursing staff badly. John used his emotional intelligence to realize that Susan wasn’t actually angry at John and his colleagues. Rather, she was experiencing self-blame and guilt for her son’s actions. John resolved his own anger at Susan for her poor treatment of the nursing staff and gently told her, “None of this is your fault.” This simple statement helped Susan understand her own emotions, and she began to work cooperatively with the nursing staff.

Providing Patient-Centered Care

Emotional intelligence helps nursing professionals provide patient-centered care. This is a holistic approach to healthcare. It examines the patient as a whole person, rather than as a set of symptoms. Patient-centered care promotes a trust-based provider-patient relationship, and it empowers patients to take on an active role in their own healthcare.

Considering a Leadership Role

Emotional intelligence can elevate the level of care you provide on a day-to-day basis. It can also influence the direction your nursing career takes. Emotionally intelligent nurses are exceptionally good leaders, and they often find themselves in managerial roles. As you cultivate EI in yourself, you will enhance your ability to communicate positively and assertively, work cooperatively, resolve conflict peacefully and nurture personal growth by learning from feedback. EI, combined with advancing your nursing education, can allow you to take steps forward in your career.

The RN to BSN degree program at Grand Canyon University offers values-based instruction to help nursing professionals provide a higher level of care to their patients. Click on the Request More Information button to find out how a BSN degree can help you advance your nursing career.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.