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Emerging Trend in Nursing

Emotional Intelligence


By: Andrea Peine-Ardila, MHA

What is Emotional Intelligence?  First introduced by John Mayer (not the singer) and Peter Salovey, two psychologists, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined by the Institute for Health and Human Potential “as the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others (2017).”  The concept of EI relative to nurse-patient relationships requires further research but preliminary studies show a correlation between mood and outcomes and possibly care team relationships.

In a patient-centric care model, nurses’ responsibilities includes more than delivering high quality care.  A nurses’ responsibility includes “respecting patient’s goals, preferences and choices, obliging their emotional, social and spiritual needs [while] using the strengths of interdisciplinary resources” (Palmer, 2007).  The nurses' expectation to form a relationship with a patient affects how successful the outcome and while experiencing emotional responses to their suffering also bears the risk of burnout.  In an environment that is ever changing, nurses are “more exposed to both physical and emotional distress of the patients and have to deal with this as part of their work” (McQueen, 2004).

Emotional labor is “the induction or suppression of feeling to sustain the outer appearance that results in others feeling cared for in a safe place” (Hocshschild, 1983).  Dealing with ones emotions in a fast paced environment while maintaining a professional, invidualized relationship with a patient involves controlled behavior and responses supporting all aspects of the care being provided.  This can prove stressful and arduous.  However, “engaging with patients at a personal level has been reported to be satisfying, and job satisfaction is also achieved when feedback of appreciation is given by patients (McQueen, 1985).”  Nurses require a balance between caring for and cultivating personal relationships with patients while acknowledging and coping with their own emotions to prevent burnout.  According to Staden, “some such techniques are careful patient allocation so that the more demanding patients are shared amongst nurses, and provision of peer support and supervision” (1998).

Emotional intelligence isn’t only required for nurse-patient relationships but also for positive interactions between patients’ families, colleagues and peers.  Educating nurses on the importance of EI is essential.  Including EI in a nurse-driven curriculum benefits nurses, patients and employers!



1. Hocshschild A.R. (1983) The Managed Heart: Commercialisation of Human Feeling. University of California Press, Berkeley.
2. Mayer, J.D. & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (eds.): Emotional development and emotional intelligence: educational applications (pp. 3-31). New York: Basic Books.
3. McQueen A. (1995) Gynaecological nursing: nurses’ perceptions of their work, MPhil Thesis. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh.
4. McQueen, A. C.H. (2004), Emotional intelligence in nursing work. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 47: 101–108. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2004.03069.x
5. Palmer, A. (n.d.). Emotional Intelligence in the Nursing Profession. Retrieved February 14, 2017, from
6. Staden H. (1998) Alertness to the needs of others: a study of the emotional labour of caring. Journal of Advanced Nursing 27, 147–156

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