How Emotional Intelligence Can Make You a Better Nurse

Emotional intelligence (EI) may seem like just another workplace buzzword. But EI has been vital to the nursing profession since the time of Florence Nightingale. Her practice of empathy and compassion is as fundamental to nursing today as it was when she was caring for wounded soldiers in the Crimean War.

As every nurse knows, caring for patients is an emotionally demanding job. When it comes to quality of care, EI is just as important as advanced competencies in evidence-based practice and informatics.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

For nurses, EI is the key to establishing trusting relationships with patients. EI is also important for nurses when it comes to building effective relationships with one another and other colleagues.

The authors of “Emotional Intelligence: Why Walking the Talk Transforms Nursing Care” take a look at how this hot topic applies to nurses. Based on the research of psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey, this article explores four abilities related to EI:

  • Correctly identifying emotions in oneself and others
  • Using emotions to reason more effectively (sometimes called “intuition” or “trusting your gut”)
  • Understanding emotions
  • Managing emotions in oneself and in emotional situations

A Forbes article cites evidence linking EI to work performance. The highest performers in the workplace are the employees with the highest levels of EI. These top performers also enjoy higher levels of well-being and better physical health.

How Can EI Benefit Patients and Nurses?

Consider a typical shift for many nurses, and it is easy to see the importance of EI. Nursing is known as “the caring profession,” after all. While compassion is a cornerstone of nursing, it can also take a toll, impacting patient safety and even nurses’ well-being.

Florence Nightingale insisted on putting patient safety first. Today, protecting patient safety is an ethical standard for nursing practice. Yet medical errors remain a leading cause of death.

The authors of “Could Emotional Intelligence Make Patients Safer?” describe patient safety as “one of the most important challenges to nursing practice in the United States.” They point to the role of communication in preventing errors and improving care.

Given the connection between communication skills and EI, the authors suggest that the development of EI can improve patient safety. In fact, EI has been called “one of the largest drivers of patient safety.”

In addition to improving patient outcomes, higher levels of EI can reduce nurse burnout. Workplace conflict is common in any profession. For nurses, interpersonal conflict can contribute to burnout. Higher levels of EI can support stronger communication and teamwork skills to reduce conflict and improve retention.

There are many reasons to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Developing the advanced competencies to improve patient outcomes is one. RN to BSN programs may not dedicate a course to EI. But EI is incorporated in related coursework that builds professional skills. For example, the RN to BSN program at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) focuses on developing strong communication and leadership skills, which go hand in hand with higher levels of EI.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace. When it comes to the nursing profession, higher levels of EI may actually save lives, not to mention relieve nurses’ stress.

Learn more about the University of Southern Indiana’s online RN to BSN program.


American Nurse Today: Emotional Intelligence: Why Walking the Talk Transforms Nursing Care

Forbes: Seven Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence So You Can Develop Deeper Relationships

American Journal of Nursing: Could Emotional Intelligence Make Patients Safer?

The Joint Commission: BMJ Report Lists Medical Error as Third-Leading Cause of Death in US

Asia-Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing: A Model for the Role of Emotional Intelligence in Patient Safety

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