How To Improve Emotional Intelligence In Nursing
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Nurses, like any other profession, are influenced by their own level of emotional intelligence (EI). If most nurses have low levels of EI, then it will continue to breed more under-reaction and over-compensation behaviors that contribute to internal turmoil and external friction with patients and colleagues.
On the contrary, if most nurses have high levels of EI, you will see happier, healthier workers who relate well to others. In fact, research shows that higher EI is linked to better patient outcomes and job performance.
So what can we do about it? This article will discuss several strategies for improving your nursing staff’s EQ. Let us dive in!
Disclaimer: The content in this article should not be used as medical advice or relied upon as such. Rather, these ideas should be applied along side whatever professional help you and your team need - from mental health resources to nutrition counseling.
Blast off on an airplane today? I wonder how many people look forward to that experience. Many get nervous before takeoff, some worry about missing the flight while others may start talking about politics or religion.
For those with low empathy, they may begin to feel bad themselves, but keep focusing on their personal goals instead of trying to understand why someone else might be upset.
Certain personality traits make it difficult to empathize. People with narcissistic personalities, for example, believe that they are special and deserve praise and admiration.
As mentioned before, nurses are professionals who deal with emotional issues at a constant level. When you’re working as a nurse, there will be times when your patients’ emotions will get the best of them, and they may display some bad behaviors or patterns.
It is important that you remain calm and understanding during these times so that you can help them feel better.
Keep an eye out for warning signs such as if their mood seems depressed or irritable, if they seem distracted, if they complain about having no sleep, or if they show symptoms of anxiety (such as nervousness).
If you notice any changes in their behavior, make sure to talk to them about it to see what was causing this change. Ask how they are feeling and try to determine the source.
Make eye contact
When you look someone in the eyes, your brain perceives them as more trustworthy than when you look at their feet or anywhere else except for their face. It’s an instinct we have that helps us determine whether they are telling the truth or not!
When nurses don’t make direct eye contact with patients, it can hurt their relationships and even put patients’ health at risk by creating mistrust.
It also may prevent patients from seeking needed care because they feel uncomfortable asking for help due to lack of confidence in the staff.
Making direct eye contact is one of the first things people learn how to do during childhood development. This makes sense, since kids need to understand other people before they can work towards friendships and trust.
For this reason, improving emotional intelligence (EI) includes developing basic skills like making eye contact.
Fortunately, there are several ways to strengthen your own internalized EI. Here are some tips to try:
Make regular eye contacts with others — both casual acquaintances and close friends.
Try to remember what made previous eye contacts special –– was that each person wanted to connect with the other.
Ask yourself why you avoided eye contact, and think about how it affected you and/or others.
If you find it difficult to make eye contact, try looking down instead or focus somewhere else.
A lot of theories about emotional intelligence focus heavily on how you can learn it or improve your EQ. While that is good, being aware of our own emotions and why we have them can be even better.
This isn’t as simple as trying to control what you feel because there are things that make us cry and sometimes we just need to let those tears flow. It’s also not about having lots of “emotions” – most people have certain emotions they are familiar with, like anger, sadness, fear, and so on.
It’s more about knowing yourself and understanding why you think and feel the way you do. This will help you manage your emotions and possibly find new ways to deal with them.
Be realistc about who you are as a person and don’t expect perfection from yourself.
Share your experiences
As mentioned earlier, one of the most important things you can do to improve your emotional intelligence is to be aware of and acknowledge your emotions.
This is also an excellent way to help others understand their emotions. When someone else is experiencing something that makes them feel bad or angry, it is okay to say what they feeling so that they will know how you deal with such situations.
It is also helpful if they ask you about your feelings because it helps them sort through their own thoughts and emotions.
When we are aware of our emotions we are more likely to recognize and understand why other people may be having certain reactions towards us or events happening around us.
Be honest with your peers
As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest weaknesses that nursing students have is their perception of how others perceive them. Students underestimate the importance that other people place on them and overestimate the effect they believe they have on someone else’s life.
This can be particularly true when it comes to nurses. Many nurses feel like everyone hates them or looks down on them because they are not practicing good patient care.
However, this assumption is false. Most people appreciate what you do for them and will give you credit for doing well. They may even tell you about some great thing you did for them!
By being aware of this, you can begin to improve your emotional intelligence by acknowledging these things more frequently. When you do so, you will learn how to read body language better and know if someone seems happy about you or not.
You also will realize that most people don’t pay much attention to what you say unless they think you mean something special to them. By learning how to read facial expressions and tone of voice, you will see if someone has made an important conclusion about you.
If you want to improve your emotional intelligence as a nurse, start paying more attention to how others perceive you.
Listen to others closely
Develop your ability to listen with all of your senses and pay close attention to what other people are saying and doing. This includes listening to their tone, how they speak, what they say, and whether they show signs like happiness, sadness, or anger.
In nursing, you will spend a lot of time talking about patients’ conditions and treatments. If someone comes into your area for care, you can learn a lot by paying close attention to them.
For example, if someone is coming in for an exam, ask questions that relate to why they want to see the doctor, what symptoms they are experiencing, and what medications they are taking.
This way, not only do you know more about their health, but also theirs about you! Keep an open mind and be willing to change your approach when needed.
You may find it helpful to take notes using the patient’s name and any information you gather. Also, keep in mind that most nurses have at least one person who understands them- try to identify who this might be and use this knowledge for your own growth.
Don’t be egotistical
A lot of people think that being emotional is a bad thing, something you should try to avoid at all costs. However, this isn’t true! Being able to relate to others and show emotions is an essential part of nursing.
Nurses are trained to put other people’s needs before their own. This includes encouraging patients to do the same by showing them empathy and understanding of what they are going through.
By having these relationships, nurses gain knowledge about how diseases affect individuals and create bonds with their loved ones that help them heal.
Furthermore, studies have shown that social workers who work with emotionally disturbed kids develop better coping skills themselves.
So next time you feel like someone has wronged you, take a moment to evaluate whether your reactions are justified or if you are overreacting. If you recognize yourself in any of the behaviors, then maybe it's time to look into your emotional intelligence.
A key part of emotional intelligence is being able to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You will not be able to improve your empathy if you are not aware of what makes you feel emotionally moved or detached. Likewise, if you don’t know how to manage your emotions, it can hinder your effectiveness as a nurse.
As nurses, we spend a lot of time helping people deal with their emotions. We give them advice about seeking outside help for mental health conditions, we teach them strategies for managing stress, and we encourage them to keep busy so that they do not have free time to overthink. All of these things contribute to our nursing colleagues having adequate emotional intelligence.
However, there are some situations beyond our control which can make us become very engaged. Situations such as caring for an ill patient may leave us feeling overwhelmed at times. Or perhaps we need to discuss difficult issues with someone who is close to the person involved.
In both cases, we could benefit from practicing self-care by taking breaks or changing our routine to reduce our exposure to the situation or persons affected. This way, we can re-enter the scene more prepared, and less likely to experience burnout.