Emotional Intelligence An essential skill for nurses

Emotional Intelligence: An Essential Skill for Nurses


The concept of Emotional Intelligence originated in the 1990s from the studies concerning thoughts, emotions, and abilities. Though emotional intelligence, as a concept, has evolved over the last 25 years, its understanding and uses are still unclear. However, in 1995 Dr. Daniel Goleman‘s bestseller book called “Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ” help set the precedence of emotional intelligence by introducing the concept globally. His book set the ball in motion, and various professions such as businesses, marketing, education, and the health care industry began to contemplate how they can best integrate emotional intelligence into their organization. However, the use and role of emotional intelligence in the nursing profession has not yet been entirely accepted. Author Raghubir (2018) reported that some nursing professionals are hesitant to accept the concept as well as employ the concept fully into their practice. Additionally, he states that some nurses have difficulty applying the idea while working side by side with their colleagues. Based on this information, the benefits of using emotional intelligence in the workplace will be presented in this article, as well as the five core elements of emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence is the capability to be aware of one’s own emotions as well as others and to control and express them most appropriately and effectively when dealing with an emotional situation. The person who possesses emotional intelligence not only has excellent communication skills; they can convey empathy, display integrity, perform tasks with attention to detail, are flexible, and have excellent problem-solving skills. They are also compassionate and empathetic with everyone they meet. More importantly, the individual who has emotional intelligence has emotional stability to handle stressful or challenging situations. Above all, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand the intricacies of how humans relate to one another. Once emotional intelligence is honed, this ability can be an asset for the individual because it will help them make better decisions in their lives and their practice. The engagement of emotional intelligence in the workplace can have the following results:

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Improved patient or client satisfaction
  • Increased morale and trust among employees
  • Improved therapeutic relationships with patients and their families
  • Increased motivation and productivity
  • Improved critical thinking and problem solving
  • Improved communication
emotional intelligence definition flow chart

The positive outcomes are limitless when it comes to the utilization of emotional intelligence; nurses have the golden opportunity to improve their personal lives and professional practice by engaging in this philosophy.

According to Peter Salovey and John Mayer:

Emotional intelligence has been defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own emotions and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and use the emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” Emotional intelligence can play an integral role in the nursing profession as it will help the nurse to see other people’s point of view. Good nursing requires having respect, kindness, compassion, trustworthiness, strong communication skills, proper time management, ability to adjust and adapt, and the ability to use critical thinking skills to solve problems effectively.

However, healthy assertive communication means a nurse can express his or her needs, set limits, learn from feedback, offer help, and respectfully resolve conflict. As a nurse, emotional intelligence will help you build healthier and more meaningful relationships with your patients and their families.

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped popularize emotional intelligence, there are five elements: Self-awareness, Self-management, Motivation, Empathy, and Social skills.


Self-awareness of one’s own emotions is the most crucial step in achieving and employing the knowledge of emotional intelligence. According to the science of attachment, a person’s current emotional experience is most likely to be a reflection of his or her past or early life experiences. A person’s ability to be aware of or identify with his/her emotions is associated with the quality, consistency, and acceptance of their early life experiences. For example, if your emotions as an infant were valued and understood by your parents or your primary caretaker, then it is most likely that you will have an inherent ability to understand and appreciate your emotions as an adult. However, if your emotions as an infant were not valued and understood by your parents or your primary caretaker, then as an adult, you are more likely to become disengaged or distant from your own emotions.

For a person to employ the knowledge of emotional intelligence, a person must be aware of their own emotions. They must be able to recognize, value, and understand them. Once a person can understand, distinguish, and accept their feelings, they will be able to connect with them. For example, a connection could be in the form of experiencing moment-to-moment or day to day life changes. Self-awareness, in short, is about becoming emotionally engaged with your core emotions. Self-awareness is the ability to understand them and value them without being judgmental, accepting them, and finding serenity with them. In other words, become comfortable with expressing your emotions. Becoming emotionally healthy can be achieved by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the exercise of concentrating on the present moment while recognizing one’s own emotions, including biological and physical sensations. The process is similar to performing the technique of meditation. Keeping calm and focused will help a person come in tune with their emotions and, more importantly, enhance their self-awareness.


In the nursing or health care profession, self-management is relatively more important than the other professions because health care professionals continuously deal with the lives of human beings. A nurse or health care professional must always have a sound and stress-free mindset to think correctly, take appropriate action, and make necessary decisions. Nevertheless, when a person is stressed or has to face stressful or upsetting news, there is a risk that they may not have control over their emotions. Stress can make people feel overwhelmed, which can affect their ability to think and perform at an optimal level. Nurses are required to have the ability to manage their emotions in stressful or crisis situations so that they can deliver safe, quality care.


Another critical component of emotional intelligence is self-motivation; just like self-awareness and self-management, self-motivation is another valuable skill that a person must entail. Self-motivation is about directing one’s self to improve and complete goal commitments. It is the willingness or eagerness to act upon opportunities while staying optimistic during complex situations. A nurse needs to be self-motivated and never lose focus or hope when it comes to the care and treatment of their patient; more importantly, the nurse must have the ability to stay realistic while maintaining optimism.



Compassion or empathy is again an essential element in emotional intelligence and healthcare services. A nurse must possess the ability to identify and understand others’ needs and feelings (both as individuals and groups) with or without verbal communication. Empathy is the ability to see and understand others’ emotions from their point of view and show compassion without emotional attachment. In other words, take the time to walk in someone else’s shoes to understand what they are experiencing or feeling.  Some emotions are expressed verbally while others are not, and are better known as body language emotions. Either way, it is vital to communicate and acknowledge other people’s feelings by being empathetic and non-judgemental.

Social Skills

Social skills are about maintaining good relationships with the people that you surround yourself with, which may include family, colleagues, patients, and their families. Nurses are encouraged to have the ability to recognize and understand verbal and non-verbal cues of other people’s emotions. This talent will help the nurse or health care professional build a more effective, fruitful, and fulfilling relationship with each person in their social circle. Excellent social skills can be achieved by communicating clearly and concisely and having the ability to listen attentively. Social skills can also be refined by being humble, accepting constructive criticism, and considering feedback as an opportunity to make self-improvements. Social skills also require the nurse to be flexible as every interaction encountered may vary. Thus, the nurse needs to adjust and adapt to each situation differently. The nurse should also know and understand that resolving conflicts or arguments are considered a golden prospect to bring others closer together.


Nursing, as reflected by its name, is about caring unconditionally for those in need. It is not only about providing quality medical care or service but also about fulfilling the patient’s and their families’ emotional needs. Nurses should strive to meet the emotional needs of their patients as well as their medical, physical, and social needs while respecting their personal choices and intentions. Emotional intelligence has become an integral part of nursing practice in recent years. Sensitivity to mood and emotions is an essential part of care and should not be taken in isolation from how we think and perform as professionals (Akerjordet and Severinsson, 2007).

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Please visit NurseAvatar website next month for new information on Nursing, then remember that there is always room for professional improvement!


Akerjordet, K., and Severinsson, E. (2007). Emotional intelligence: a review of the literature with a specific focus on empirical and epistemological perspectives. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 16(8), pp.1405-1416.

Raghubir, A. (2018). Emotional intelligence in professional nursing practice: A concept review using Rodgers’s evolutionary analysis approach. International Journal of Nursing Sciences, 5(2), pp.126-130.

Codier, E., and Codier, D. (2020). Could Emotional Intelligence Make Patients Safer?.

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