How EQ Can Elevate Pharmacy IQ

As patient-centered care plays an increasingly integral role in clinical practice, many health care professionals seek to understand how to improve health outcomes.

As patient-centered care plays an increasingly integral role in clinical practice, many health care professionals seek to understand how to improve health outcomes.

Some providers seem more successful in achieving patient-centered outcomes than others. One possible explanation for this is the difference between practitioners’ personalities, namely emotional intelligence (EI).

Often used interchangeably with emotional quotient (EQ), EI is an individual’s ability to recognize his or her emotions, as well as those of others. It also involves distinguishing between different emotions, labeling them correctly, and then using emotional information such as physical cues to direct thinking and behavior.

Health care professionals with high EQ have been shown to possess essential skills for interacting with coworkers and patients, leading to improved job performance and effective leadership.

Because pharmacists and other health care professionals have a plethora of clinical knowledge, most complaints about individual providers relate to their EQ, rather than their IQ.

Clinical outcomes and issues such as malpractice liability may be affected by a practitioner’s ability to convey emotional awareness and empathy to patients. Various models have been used to explain EQ, but the mixed model focuses on a broad range of aptitudes and skills that may have implications in health care.1

The 5 main elements of the mixed model of EQ as they relate to clinical outcomes are:

  • Self-awareness: A provider's ability to understand how his or her emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals impact his or her clinical decision-making and social interactions.
  • Self-regulation: The control a provider has over his or emotions and impulses, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances in social environments.
  • Social skills: A provider's ability to manage relationships and lead colleagues towards a particular goal or desired direction.
  • Empathy: The consideration of a patient or colleague's feelings and preferences, especially when making clinical decisions. This corresponds with bedside manner, which is lacking in some health care professionals.
  • Motivation: The drive a provider has to accomplish a goal for the sake of achievement.

The last element may be the most common among health care professionals, as many possess the desire to produce good outcomes for their patients. However, their ability to convey that emotion may be lacking.

While researchers attempt to determine whether these traits are inherent or developed, here are some useful tips to start improving your EQ and potentially your clinical outcomes:

1. Develop your self-awareness by reflecting on your thoughts. Meditation is a method to slow down your brain. Not everyone can sit still in a lotus position for extended periods of time, but you could remove yourself from stressful environments and give your emotional state some room to breathe. I like to go for long walks and think through everything that is on my mind.

2. One way to control your emotions is to manage your sensory input. We react to stimuli, but they don't have to stress us out necessarily. While this is easier said than done, there are plenty of physical techniques that can help you manage your emotions, such as breathing exercises. When you find yourself in a stressful state, go outside and get some fresh air.

3. Improving your social skills is an art form that is probably the most difficult to master, mostly because conflicts with others often feel beyond your control. Although you cannot control certain external factors, you can control how you cope with them. When you find yourself in the midst of a problem, first separate yourself from the issue, blow off steam by yourself, and then return to it. Once you are calm, identify the true source of the conflict, propose solutions that are mutually beneficial, and try to let the other party know that you want to work towards the same goal, even if you have different views.

4. Having empathy towards others, especially in a clinical context, requires the ability to understand the other person’s point of view by putting yourself in his or her shoes. Try to listen more and speak less, because you cannot understand how the other person feels if you do not listen to what he or she is saying. However, it is not enough to simply know what the other person is saying; the key to empathy is understanding what he or she is feeling. By communicating effectively, you are able to work with the person to produce better outcomes.

5. The motivation to accomplish a good clinical outcome stems from an individual's values and goals. Without a clear vision or objective, pharmacists can easily lose sight of their purposes for entering the profession and may forget how essential they are to the public’s well-being.

Improving your EQ can lead to better clinical outcomes, as patients may become more apt to adhere to your instructions and advice. However trivial they may seem, these enhancers just might tip the scale toward a positive clinical outcome.

Reference:

1. Goleman D. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.