The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Nursing

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By Katie McBeth

August 18, 2019

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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Nursing

emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, is a mix of interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. It’s more than just bedside manner. It is the ability to accurately determine the emotions of others (interpersonal, body language or people smarts), and the ability to manage and control your own emotions (intrapersonal, self or self-regulating smarts). It comes easier for some people than others, but it is something everyone can learn and benefit from bettering.

As travel nurses, we’re lucky. We get to see new places, meet new people, and get paid to do it! However, just as in any profession, there is always a chance of getting burnt out.

Maybe you’ve been on the road for weeks, answering calls every night, and you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep for a month. Or maybe you’ve found yourself stuck in the middle of a natural disaster, and haven’t mentally prepared for the overload of work.

Burnout happens, and compassion fatigue can be an unfortunate result of overworking and stress. However, there’s a secret mental tool we can use to catch burn out before it overtakes us: emotional intelligence.

When it comes to the nursing profession, or more specifically to travel nursing, heightening your EQ could lead you down a road to better opportunities and interactions with patients. Here are five reasons improving your EQ could make you a better nurse.

#1 Develop Your Empathy

Empathy is important in our practice, and even more vital in our daily lives. Empathy allows us to relate and connect with others on a deeper level. As Brené Brown puts it in her Ted Talks on Empathy: “[Showing empathy] is a choice, and it is a vulnerable choice. Because in order to connect with you, I need to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.”

A heightened emotional intelligence in nursing can improve our empathy. This can allow us to connect with patients who may have different backgrounds, but still need the best level of care.

However, burnout can sometimes come on much stronger if we’re a more empathetic person. Especially in nursing, when we often see death and sadness. Having heightened empathy can cause us to reach emotional exhaustion much faster. That is why learning to manage your own emotions (the other side of EQ) can balance out any potential for emotional fatigue.

#2 Prepare for the Worst

The common idiom life throws curve balls might be even more true for travel nurses. When you’re constantly on the road, in new places, surrounded by strangers, the chances for something to go wrong rise exponentially. However, emotional intelligence can help us navigate our own emotions to prepare for these more intense situations.

If we find ourselves in a sudden natural disaster zone, we can find a way to mentally buckle down and prepare for this increased stress. Similarly, we can know when we’re getting too stressed and need to take a step back. Self-care is essential to keeping our minds at ease, our hearts true, and our hands steady.

#3 Stay Healthier, Longer

As nurses, we are hyper aware of the way stress can cause harm to our bodies. However, it’s still tough to determine that within ourselves. When are we too stressed, and when is our stress actually healthy?

Luckily, by perfecting our EQ, we can determine when our stress reaches unhealthy levels. Additionally, we can potentially save ourselves from heart disease or other factors of chronic stress later in life. When we recognize the need for self-care, we can make the time for ourselves to find the best ways to relax.

#4 Relieve Tension Between Coworkers

Of course patients aren’t the only interactions we are going to have on these travels. Fellow nurses (stationary and traveling) will come in and out of our lives, and not all of them will be friendly. Improving our EQ can help us in many tense situations, especially between fellow nurses.

Heightened EQ is known for improving business communication – especially between managers and employees – and it can help in many different office formats. If you’re struggling with a fellow nurse, bring it up with them and see if you can talk through the issue. If not, then talk about it with your manager. It’s as simple as having a conversation and showing some empathy for our fellow nurses.

#5 Improve Your Treatment

The most important reason for nurses to avoid burnout is to never get apathetic on the job. When we’re beyond the point of burnout, we get irritable, tired, and get our anger and frustration leak into our words. When we’re burnout we can hurt those we are trying to help, and that goes against the code of ethics we are meant to follow.

Although we are not perfect beings (but we sure try to be), we can make ourselves better through regulating internal emotions through self-care and awareness, and by navigating around the emotions of others. When emotional situations arise, or we’re confronted by an upset patient, we can more accurately meet their needs by perfecting our EQ. We are more likely to listen, realize their concerns, and address them on their level.


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