Clinical Relevance of Emotional Intelligence in Obstetric Nurses

Clinical Relevance of Emotional Intelligence in Obstetric Nurses
Deborah Choi
Wichita State University
Clinical Relevance of Emotional Intelligence in Obstetric Nurses
Most people will agree that very little of our lives is determined solely by logical
reasoning alone. Interestingly, it is actually our emotional aspects that dictate a majority of the
choices and decisions we make in everyday life. Understanding and implementing emotional
intelligence is a powerful factor on caring behaviors of nurses in general and even more so in
obstetric nurses. The application of emotional intelligence affects nurses in all realms of nursing
practice, patients whom receive their care, and OB nurses in other substantial ways. Failure to
comprehend the emotional elements can have serious, detrimental outcomes on the well-being of
patients and nurses themselves overall.
For all nurses in practice, emotional intelligence is the nurses’ first line of defense. A
study by Kaur and Sambasivan (2013) shows that emotional intelligence, which can be defined
as the ability to manage emotions and behaviors appropriately according to changing
circumstances, facilitates fostering positive interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.
Emotional intelligence allows nurses to think fluidly in situations that call for both rational
thinking and compassionate emotions. Based on this argument, there is a positive relationship
between high levels of emotional intelligence and the nurse’s ability to maintain control over
his/her work environment. This allows the nurse to cope effectively during stressful periods of
increased work demands. For example, nurses more often than not, manage the care of multiple
patients and bear the burden of catering to their most basic needs. Years of this practice could
weigh heavily on nurses and cause frequent burn-outs without the capabilities of managing such
emotions. Nurses who lack the adeptness of emotional intelligence may find it difficult to
manage their own emotions and discriminate between positive and negative effects of their
emotions during stressful situations. Carragher and Gormley (2017) claim that emotional
intelligence is in some ways more important that intellectual intelligence because people
demonstrate advanced interactive skills and are more inclined to work well in collaborations.
Due to the fact that all nurses are required to work collaboratively with other health providers at
some point in their career (if not every day), this trait is vital in effective teamwork. It is
important to note that emotions are qualitative and subjective in nature, making it difficult for
researchers to put into quantitative, measurable terms. The study by Kaur and Sambasivan
(2013) incorporates the Schutte Self‐Report Emotional Intelligence Test (SSEIT) to first measure
the participants’ level of emotional intelligence, then conduct further interview and self-report
assessments. Though current studies are somewhat limited in the amount of data on clinical
relevance of emotional intelligence, current studies strongly support that it safeguards nurses
with the tools to apply more successful coping strategies and allows nurses to connect emotions,
decisions and actions based on logic and intuition.
The ultimate goal of utilizing emotional intelligence is truly for the well-being of
patients. Akerjordet and Severinsson (2007) explore and empirically validate the relationship
between emotional intelligence and caring behaviors in nurses. They argue that nurses who have
“professional sensitivity” to recognize patients’ vulnerabilities, while also maintaining selfawareness, are capable of consciously discerning the most appropriate intervention in any urgent
context. Therefore, emotional intelligence in nurses equips them to make the most optimal
choices and decisions in advocacy for their patients. Caring can be defined as focusing on the
patient’s needs and concerns above all other duties. Nurses who can efficiently recognize the
emotions of others can provide great individualized patient care. Nurses are taught in school to
reflect on their own personal biases before attempting to handle patients with potential
discrepancies in values or opinions. Hence, this is an evidenced-based practice that nurses should
cater to emotional intelligence to demonstrate better care towards their patients. Also, being able
to suppress one’s own feelings and maintaining a professional façade towards patients during
appropriate times is crucial for nurses who must respect and maintain patients’ dignity.
Furthermore, nurses in the field of obstetrics are called to a higher level of emotional
intelligence due to the rigorous nature of the environment and the intensity of emotions that are
created in this space. These situations could potentially entail a difficult labor and delivery, a
grieving period after a loss of a baby, and other circumstances. As aforementioned, every clinical
nurse is required to possess a significant aptitude of emotional intelligence, however it is even
more relevant for OB nurses because they are constantly required to balance the rational and
emotional mind in their day-to-day practice. Emotional intelligence can be summarized as the
“heart” or feeling of nursing. Understanding minute nonverbal cues and following up with
appropriate care is critical in the field of maternal-newborn care. Nonverbal communication may
reveal a patient’s lifetime of emotions, which otherwise goes unnoticed. Especially during labor
and delivery, a mother may not necessarily verbalize their feelings and needs due to the intense
atmosphere and obvious physical pain. The ability to pick up on these nonverbal cues is an
integral part of emotional intelligence. OB nurses should empathize with mothers and family
members while also exuding self-confidence and maturity by being aware of their own
ethnocentric ideas and biases. Lack of this skill can negatively affect decision-making in the OB
environment. For example, a nurse who puts their opinions above others may execute poorer
choices due to their lack of effort to understand what the mother and family may actually need.
Parents of newborns with congenital defects (or other unfortunate circumstances) are likely to
feel a whirlwind of emotions all while enduring the physical agony of child birth. During
turbulent times like these, no level of logical intervention could surpass the consolation of a
nurse who understands the unique situation of the patient and implements individualized care.
Empathy empowers nurses to provide more trustworthy counseling and guidance to their
patients. Patterson and Begley (2011) reiterate that without these qualities, OB nurses diverge
into a path of developing impersonal coping strategies, avoiding emotional issues, becoming
professionally detached, and only focusing on practical tasks. Although there are circumstances
that are deemed inappropriate for displaying certain emotions, it should be clearly noted that
emotional intelligence takes the next step in utilizing this knowledge to deliver the best care to
the floor. The study also mentions a positive correlation between the amount of quality nurseclient time spent with expectant mothers and the well-being of the mothers who receive this care.
Emotional intelligence shines a light to details of patients’ lives that are difficult to see with the
eyes of logic alone.
With increasing staff shortages, low standards of care, poor skills as well as a lack of
compassion, nurses are faced with serious challenges in their profession. Emotional intelligence
proves to be relevant to clinical practice in all aspects and health care educators must incorporate
this topic in nursing curricula and training. Emotional intelligence can be carefully developed
and matured if implemented into nursing education in a realistic way. It integrates the logical and
emotional aspects to create the most idealistic quality of care for patients. Emotional intelligence
empowers nurses in all settings because it allows them to take hold of their emotions in their
settings rather than letting the emotions control them. It can potentially create greater
adaptability and resiliency in nurses at the workplace. Though many people would claim that
times have changed with the advancement of technology and strain of time, the foundation of
nursing remains in the holistic care of patients. The importance of emotional intelligence should
be emphasized just as much as all other knowledge-based intelligence in schools. Perhaps a shift
in the education of future nurses could possibly create a new generation of nurses with generous
hearts to serve.
Akerjordet, K. and Severinsson, E. (2007), Emotional intelligence: a review of the literature with
specific focus on empirical and epistemological perspectives. Journal of Clinical Nursing,
16: 1405-1416. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2006.01749.x
Carragher J. & Gormley K. (2017) Leadership and emotional intelligence in nursing and
midwifery education and practice: a discussion paper. Journal of Advanced Nursing
73(1), 85–96. doi: 10.1111/jan.13141
Kaur, D. , Sambasivan, M. and Kumar, N. (2013), Effect of spiritual intelligence, emotional
intelligence, psychological ownership and burnout on caring behaviour of nurses: a cross‐
sectional study. J Clin Nurs, 22: 3192-3202. doi:10.1111/jocn.12386
Patterson D, Begley AM. (2011) An exploration of the importance of emotional intelligence in
midwifery. Evidence Based Midwifery 9(2): 53-60.
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