A female nurse wheeling a patient in her wheelchair
Aug 1, 2023 — Carly Miller

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Nursing

A female nurse holding a clipboard and smiling at a patient

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, has surfaced as a critical skill in the nursing practice. It goes beyond the ability to administer medical treatments or maintain patient records.

EQ speaks volumes about a nurse’s capability to comprehend, manage, and express their emotions and to navigate interpersonal relationships judiciously.

This blog will delve into emotional intelligence, its significance in the nursing profession, and how to measure it effectively among nursing staff.

More importantly, we will explore strategies to nurture emotional intelligence among nursing candidates, empowering them to deliver empathetic and compassionate care.

What is Emotional Intelligence in Nursing?

A female nurse standing with a patient in a wheelchair

Emotional intelligence, often abbreviated as EQ, is the capacity to recognize, comprehend, utilize, and regulate emotions in oneself and others effectively. It is divided into four primary components:


Self-awareness refers to the ability to recognize and understand one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and goals—and their impact on others.

In nursing, emotional intelligence involves acknowledging how personal feelings can influence patient care and interpersonal relationships within the healthcare setting.

A self-aware nurse can accurately assess their emotional state. This can prevent it from negatively impacting their decision-making or interaction with patients, supervisors, and other hospital nurses.

Furthermore, it allows them to identify areas for improvement, promoting continuous growth in their personal and professional life.


Self-management refers to controlling and regulating one’s emotions, particularly during stressful situations. This skill is crucial in a high-pressure environment like a nursing career, where the emotional climate can change rapidly and dramatically.

Nurses with high self-management can keep their feelings in check, ensuring their emotions do not affect their professional behavior or compromise patient safety.

They exhibit flexibility, adapt to change gracefully and resiliently and remain optimistic despite challenges.

They also possess high self-control, allowing them to act thoughtfully and professionally rather than reacting impulsively to emotionally charged situations.

Overall, self-management in nursing equips professionals with the emotional stability needed to make rational decisions and provide optimal care.

Social Awareness

Social awareness pertains to the ability to perceive the emotions of others and understand their perspective accurately. It involves an awareness of social dynamics and the emotions that drive them.

In nursing, social awareness is crucial for empathizing with patients and their families. This heightened understanding helps nurses to communicate more effectively, tailoring their interaction to the individual’s emotional state and needs.

A nurse with high social awareness can pick up on subtle cues, allowing for higher nursing care and a positive patient impact.

Moreover, social awareness is pivotal in fostering a harmonious healthcare team, enabling nurses to work collaboratively with colleagues and other healthcare workers.

Relationship Management

Relationship management, the final aspect of emotional intelligence, pertains to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with others.

For nurses, it involves building rapport and trust with patients and fostering a supportive, open environment where patients feel comfortable expressing their concerns.

Nurses with solid relationship management skills can effectively manage conflict, provide constructive feedback, and inspire others toward a shared goal. These nurses are often seen as leaders, guiding their teams with empathy, understanding, and respect.

Ultimately, strong relationship management leads to a collaborative, harmonious dynamic within healthcare teams and improved patient satisfaction – an essential aspect of quality healthcare delivery.

The Impact of Emotional Intelligence in Nursing on Patients

Emotional intelligence has a significant impact on patient care and outcomes. Its influence spans several key areas:

Improved Communication

Emotionally intelligent nurses promote effective communication. They can pick up on and respond to both verbal and non-verbal cues from patients, enhancing understanding and fostering trust.

Clear, empathetic communication skills are crucial in healthcare, as it helps nurses to accurately assess a patient’s condition, address their concerns, and provide necessary information to affect the patient positively.

Enhanced Patient Satisfaction

Emotionally intelligent nurses are more likely to provide a positive patient experience. They can empathize with their patients, understand their concerns and fears, and respond with care.

These qualities help to build trust, which in turn, enhances patient satisfaction. Furthermore, by adjusting their approach based on the patient’s emotional state, emotionally intelligent nurses can make the healthcare experience less stressful and more comforting.

Better Patient Outcomes

Emotionally intelligent nurses can help to achieve better patient outcomes. They are more attuned to the needs of their patients and are better equipped to respond appropriately to emotional distress.

This can lead to early detection of complications, improved patient adherence to treatment plans, and ultimately better health outcomes.

Moreover, their ability to manage their emotions can prevent burnout and poor mental health, enabling them to maintain high levels of care consistently.

Increased Patient Compliance

A nurse with a high degree of emotional intelligence can increase patient compliance. By effectively communicating the importance of following treatment plans and understanding patients’ concerns, nurses can encourage adherence to medication regimens and other essential healthcare directives.

This can lead to improved health outcomes, as patients are more likely to follow through with their treatment plans when they trust and understand their healthcare providers.

Why Should Emotional Intelligence in Nursing Matter to Recruiters?

A female nurse standing with a patient in a wheelchair

Emotional intelligence in nursing should matter to recruiters for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, emotionally intelligent nurses are more likely to deliver high-quality patient care, leading to better patient outcomes and satisfaction – hallmarks of a successful healthcare organization. Hiring nurses with high emotional intelligence can also foster a positive work environment, leading to increased team cohesion and productivity.

Secondly, emotionally intelligent nurses are less likely to experience burnout, a common issue in the high-stress healthcare field. By effectively managing their emotions, they can maintain consistent levels of patient care over extended periods, improving patient outcomes and satisfaction. This also leads to lower turnover rates, saving organizations time and resources in recruitment and training.

Lastly, emotional intelligence can be an indicator of leadership potential. Nurses with high emotional intelligence better understand their own emotions and those of others, enabling them to succeed in roles like nurse managers, nurse leaders, or other leadership roles.

This can be a significant advantage for healthcare organizations looking to build strong leadership teams. Thus, recruiters who value emotional intelligence will be better equipped to identify potential leaders, ultimately contributing to their organization’s long-term success.

Assessing Emotional Intelligence in Nursing

Assessing emotional intelligence during the recruitment of nurses plays a critical role in identifying candidates who possess the necessary nursing skills and are capable of delivering empathetic and personalized nursing care.

Emotionally intelligent nurses can build meaningful relationships with patients, manage stress effectively, and contribute positively to healthcare team dynamics. They are more likely to increase patient satisfaction and outcomes and reduce nurse turnover rates.

Therefore, integrating emotional intelligence assessment into the nursing recruitment process can significantly enhance the quality of hires and, consequently, the overall effectiveness of healthcare delivery.

Emotional Intelligence Assessment Tools

Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT)

The MSCEIT assesses emotional intelligence across four key domains: perceiving emotions, facilitating thought, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.

It presents a series of emotion-based problem-solving scenarios to candidates, providing insights into their ability to process, use, understand, and manage emotions.

Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i)

The EQ-i measures emotional intelligence across five composite scales and fifteen subscales, encompassing a wide range of emotional and social skills.

It’s a self-report assessment that provides rich data about a candidate’s self-perception, social skills, stress management, adaptability, and general mood.

The Genos Emotional Intelligence Assessment

The Genos model measures how well individuals apply their emotional intelligence in the workplace.

It assesses seven core emotional intelligence competencies: emotional self-awareness, emotional expression, emotional awareness of others, emotional reasoning, emotional self-management, emotional management, and emotional self-control.

Emotional Intelligence Assessment Methods

Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing assesses emotional intelligence by asking candidates to describe how they handled past experiences. Questions may focus on how candidates managed personal stress, navigated conflict, or demonstrated empathy in challenging situations.


Role-playing exercises can provide a realistic preview of nursing practice demands and provide insights into a candidate’s emotional response and problem-solving approach. Scenarios could involve managing a frustrated patient, dealing with an uncooperative team member, or responding to a high-pressure situation.

Emotional Intelligence Training and Workshops

Hosting emotional intelligence training and workshops can help organizations assess how candidates apply their emotional intelligence skills in a group setting. It can also serve as a platform to identify strengths and areas for improvement, providing valuable information to inform recruitment decisions.

By combining these assessment tools and methods, healthcare recruiters can more effectively discern the emotional intelligence levels of their nursing candidates, enabling them to make more informed, successful hiring decisions.

10 Key Indicators of Emotional Intelligence in Nursing Candidates

  • Self-awareness: Nurses with high emotional intelligence have a keen understanding of their own emotions. They can recognize and understand their emotional responses and how these responses impact their actions and decisions.
  • Empathy: Emotionally intelligent nurses can understand and share the feelings of others. They can perceive the emotional states of their patients and respond with compassion and understanding.
  • Interpersonal skills: Effective communication and relationship management are critical indicators of emotional intelligence. Nurses with these skills can build strong relationships with patients and team members, leading to a more harmonious and productive work environment.
  • Stress management: Managing and coping with stress effectively is a crucial marker of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent nurses are adept at using adaptive strategies to deal with the stressors of the healthcare environment.
  • Conflict resolution: Emotionally intelligent nurses can navigate and resolve conflicts effectively. They can approach disputes calmly, leading to constructive and respectful solutions.
  • Adaptability: The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and handle unexpected situations with grace is another indicator of emotional intelligence. Nurses with high emotional intelligence can quickly adjust their responses and strategies in the face of changes or challenges.
  • Self-regulation: The ability to control impulses, manage emotions in healthy ways, and think before acting are all critical indicators of emotional intelligence. Nurses possessing self-regulation can maintain professionalism and provide consistent, high-quality care, even in stressful situations.
  • Motivation: Emotionally intelligent nurses are self-motivated and resilient. An inner ambition drives them, and they find fulfillment in their work.
  • Emotional resilience: Nurses with high emotional intelligence are emotionally resilient. They can bounce back from adversity, stress, trauma, or failures and can continue to operate effectively in their roles, despite challenging circumstances.
  • Optimism: Nurses with high emotional intelligence exhibit an optimistic outlook. This positive perspective enables them to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than setbacks. This attribute is essential, as it helps maintain morale and enhances the ability to provide empathetic care to patients, even in challenging situations.

Avoid Bias When Assessing Emotional Intelligence in Nursing Candidates

When assessing emotional intelligence in nursing candidates, it’s crucial to avoid bias to ensure fairness and accuracy. Several strategies can be implemented in the assessment process to minimize bias.

Firstly, utilizing objective, standardized tests or tools for measuring emotional intelligence can provide consistent results. These tools should have been validated and normed on a diverse sample to ensure they accurately measure emotional intelligence across different demographics.

Secondly, multiple raters should be involved in the assessment process. Having more than one person rate a candidate’s emotional intelligence reduces the risk of personal bias affecting the results. Providing raters with training to avoid discrimination and accurately assess emotional intelligence is also beneficial.

Thirdly, ensure diversity in the assessment panel. A diverse panel can help to eliminate unconscious bias and contribute to a more balanced evaluation.

Lastly, focusing on the candidate’s skills and behaviors is essential, not personal characteristics or assumptions. Using structured interviews with standardized questions can help keep the focus on relevant skills and experiences.

By adopting these strategies, healthcare organizations can ensure a fair and unbiased assessment of emotional intelligence, ultimately selecting nursing candidates best suited to the role’s demands.

Fostering Emotional Intelligence in Nursing Candidates

Fostering emotional intelligence in nursing candidates is crucial. By incorporating emotional intelligence into nurse education, nursing schools can bring up emotionally intelligent nursing students who can contribute positively to the healthcare workforce.

Moreover, incorporating emotional intelligence into performance metrics and providing constructive feedback can aid in developing these skills. Leaders should model emotionally intelligent behavior and cross-functional team experiences should be encouraged to foster understanding and cooperation.

Creating a supportive work environment that values emotional intelligence can also motivate nurses to improve in this area. By encouraging self-awareness and valuing emotional expression, healthcare organizations can help nurses become more effective in their roles and positively impact the quality of patient care.

Remember, fostering emotional intelligence in nursing is a journey, not a destination. It requires ongoing effort and commitment from both the individual and the organization.

How Emotional Intelligence Can Impact Burnout

Emotional intelligence is pivotal in combatting burnout among nurses, a common issue in the healthcare sector. Burnout can significantly impact a nurse’s productivity and the quality of patient care. Nurses with high emotional intelligence can manage their emotions effectively, reducing the likelihood of experiencing burnout.

They can better understand their emotional responses to stress, enabling them to implement coping strategies and maintain their mental health. Their ability to empathize allows them to create a network of emotional support within the workplace. This understanding and management of emotions can result in improved job satisfaction, decreased stress levels, and a healthier work-life balance.

Furthermore, emotionally intelligent nurses are more resilient and adaptable. They can bounce back from adversities with an optimistic outlook, viewing challenges as opportunities for growth. This resilience can prevent feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that often accompany burnout. As such, promoting emotional intelligence in nursing can be a powerful strategy for enhancing nurses’ well-being and the quality of patient care.

Hire Emotionally Intelligent Nurses For a Stronger Healthcare System

In conclusion, emotional intelligence is a critical skill set for nurses.

By assessing and fostering emotional intelligence in nursing candidates and current staff, healthcare organizations can create an empathetic and resilient workforce.

Moreover, the ripple effect of high emotional intelligence can help mitigate nurse burnout, ensuring a healthier and more productive workforce.

Hence, a focused strategy on emotional intelligence is not just beneficial but vital for the success of healthcare organizations.

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