In honor of National Emotional Wellness Month, we wanted to share one of our favorite strategies for improving emotional wellness in healthcare professionals who have clinical obligations.
Many of you have heard the term Emotional Intelligence (EI), but do you know the role it plays in a caregiver’s long-term satisfaction and effectiveness in their workplace? We looked at a number of studies and saw that EI actually plays an important role in a caretaker’s ability to counteract exposure to negative elements with positive ones. In fact, research by Dr. Hadar-Pecker (2013) found that, “those with a higher degree of EI were able to avoid compassion fatigue and more successful in experiencing compassion satisfaction."
Having a high emotional intelligence certainly doesn’t make a person immune to daily stressors in the workplace or the physical and emotional pain that is often experienced on a daily basis in the caretaking field. However, “an individual with a high EI,” says Dr. Hadar-Pecker, "knows how to create a strategy to navigate through the negative aspects and balance them with the positive aspects.” In the end, it's the patient who is the beneficiary. The more the caregiver is able to identify with and empathize with the patient, the better the impression the patient will have on the caregiver and the likelihood of the success of the treatment program increases.
In essence, when you break the term Emotional Intelligence down, it means having the ability to identify emotions in yourself and in others and then being able to cultivate healthy responses to such emotions. For caregivers, this concept goes hand-in-hand with our work. An article on the relationship between EI and caregivers by Dr. Travis Bradberry breaks down a few of the criteria for caretakers with a high EI. Here is an excerpt from his article:
- You’re Curious about People It doesn’t matter if they’re introverted or extroverted, emotionally intelligent people are curious about everyone around them. This curiosity is the product of empathy, one of the most significant gateways to a high EQ. The more you care about other people and what they’re going through, the more curiosity you’re going to have about them.
- You Embrace Change Emotionally intelligent people are flexible and are constantly adapting. They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major threat to their success and happiness. They look for change that is lurking just around the corner, and they form a plan of action should these changes occur.
- You Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses Emotionally intelligent people don’t just understand emotions; they know what they’re good at and what they’re terrible at. They also know who pushes their buttons and the environments (both situations and people) that enable them to succeed. Having a high EI means you know your strengths and you know how to lean into them and use them to your full advantage while keeping your weaknesses from holding you back.
Additional criteria of Emotional Intelligence as laid out by Dr. Bradburry includes:
- Knowing how to say no (to yourself and to others)
- Giving and expecting nothing in return
- Being able to neutralize toxic people
- The ability to disconnect
- Not holding grudges
- Not seeking perfection
As we continue to strive to improve both personally and professionally, it is important to check in with ourselves and note areas for improvement. If EI is not one of your strengths, we encourage developing these skills over time to see a broad variety of benefits. You will have a better chance at avoiding compassion fatigue, improving patient satisfaction scores, and potentially improving patient outcomes.