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Why Emotional Intelligence Is Essential in Health Care

Why Emotional Intelligence Is Essential in Health Care

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By Dr. Ginger Raya
Faculty Member, School of Health Sciences, American Public University

How many of us know someone at work who acts badly? These types of people typically raise their voices when they are upset, or they make it very clear when they are unhappy or dissatisfied with a situation.

Start a bachelor’s degree in public health at American Public University.

Also, these workers either pout or are passive-aggressive, ultimately making others feel uncomfortable at work. And what happens when that person is your boss?

When emotions are high and situations are escalated, the outcomes in health care are catastrophic for everyone involved. People who act badly adversely impact other individuals in a health care environment: patients, staff and physicians.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is ultimately the way we deal with interpersonal or intrapersonal emotional information and situations. Having well-developed EI particularly matters in health care, especially during the current and stressful pandemic that we are experiencing on a global level.

Three Reasons Why EI Matters in Health Care

There are three important reasons why emotional intelligence is an important quality to have for healthcare leaders and healthcare workers:

1. Talent retention. The talent shortage is real in health care; there are already not enough physicians, nurses, technicians or leaders. The potential for dissatisfaction becomes greater in environments that lack emotionally intelligent stakeholders, and talented workforces don’t need to tolerate poor behavior.

Employees who have higher EI are shown to have higher levels of satisfaction and less instances of turnover. Similarly, physicians with higher emotional intelligence levels are less likely to burn out and demonstrate higher levels of job satisfaction.

2. Patient satisfaction: An environment where a lack of EI is prevalent is a dealbreaker for patients. Physicians with higher EI display active listening skills, respond better to patient emotions and display higher respect for individuals.

In addition, these doctors increase patient loyalty and consequently generate more income due to that loyalty. Patients in an environment with higher EI are also more likely to take a more active role in their healthcare, which in turn leads to improved patient outcomes.

3. Decrease in expenditures: Improving EI by one percent on average decreases healthcare expenditure by one percent. By improving the emotional intelligence of various health care employees and managers, further expenditures could also decrease.

Healthcare expenditures accounted for 4.6 percent of the gross domestic product in the United States in 2018 or $3.6 trillion with projections estimating 5.4 percent by 2028 or $6.2 trillion, not including the impact of COVID-19. Decreasing discretionary spending by up to 1% would account for a substantial savings in healthcare related spending. If more EI training programs were implemented in healthcare environments, there could be substantial savings.

Emotional Intelligence Tools, Development and Training

There are various tools used to measure EI. But any curriculum for the purpose of improving EI in health care providers needs to be vetted to ensure that industry workers gain the emotional abilities training they need.

However, a combined approach to EI, such as synergistic EI and mindfulness, has lacked medical education training at all levels. Understanding one’s own level of EI has been shown to be effective, particularly for physicians.

Continuing medical education expenditures exceed $2 billion annually. But so far, emotional intelligence does not garner enough attention for the potential impact on health care initiatives like talent retention, patient satisfaction and a decrease in expenses.

An increased focus on EI is a good investment in the future of health care. At minimum, it is beneficial for all healthcare workers to understand their own EI levels, which can be done by taking a reliable, evidence-based EI assessment.

About the Author

Dr. Ginger Raya is a faculty member in the School of Health Sciences at American Public University. She is also a Regional Manager of Physician Services Group at HCA, where she specializes in ambulatory operations, as well as acquisition and employment of healthcare provider’s and their practices. Dr. Raya is an experienced faculty and a course developer in healthcare administration for over 11 years. In addition, she is a certified career coach specializing in helping grad students find meaningful careers in healthcare.

Dr. Raya has a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas at El Paso. She holds a master’s degree in health care administration from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and a Doctor of Education in organizational leadership from Argosy University.

Dr. Raya was competitively selected and is a graduate of Leadership Texas (Class of 2015), a nonprofit social enterprise that is a nationally recognized, preeminent women’s education organization through Leadership Women, Inc. and was selected to participate in Leadership America, 2020 cohort and served on the Board of Directors for the local chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives. She was also elected to the Board of Directors for Evolve Federal Credit Union, one of the largest credit unions in El Paso, Texas, and previously served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for KCOS-TV, El Paso’s PBS Station.

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