Running Head: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN OBSTRETIC NURSES Clinical Relevance of Emotional Intelligence in Obstetric Nurses Deborah Choi Wichita State University 1 EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN OBSTRETIC NURSES 2 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 EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN OBSTRETIC NURSES 3 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 EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN OBSTRETIC NURSES 4 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 EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN OBSTRETIC NURSES 5 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 EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN OBSTRETIC NURSES 6 in the education of future nurses could possibly create a new generation of nurses with generous hearts to serve. References 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.