Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Panacea or Placebo? an Evaluation of the Value of Emotional Intelligence in Healthcare Workers

Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Panacea or Placebo? an Evaluation of the Value of Emotional Intelligence in Healthcare Workers

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to empirically investigate the relationship between emotional intelligence and desirable nursing behaviors, measured as organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). We used Mayer and Salovey's (1997) four-dimensional model of emotional intelligence and Organ's (1988) OCB construct to test the EI-OCB relationships. Using a sample of 137 clinical nurses, and analyzing the data with hierarchical multiple regressions, we obtained results indicating that the EI dimension perceiving emotion was linked to conscientiousness, and facilitating thinking was linked to civic virtue. Managing emotion was linked to conscientiousness, civic virtue, altruism and courtesy. There were no relationships between facilitating thinking and the OCB dimensions. Results suggest that EI may increase conscientiousness in performing nursing duties, and in the levels of involvement and participation in hospital affairs. Higher levels of emotional intelligence may also increase altruistic activities and discretionary coordinating efforts. However, there is no reason to expect that a poor work climate, and grieving, complaining behaviors will respond positively to increasing EI. Managers should realize that efforts to improve EI may not provide global results.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is generally defined as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feeling and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth (Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 1999). Over the past 10 years, EI has become a buzzword in the nursing and healthcare management literature, and anecdotally linked to numerous desirable results including patient outcomes, improved leadership, personal and hospital success, and reduced turnover.

Strickland (2000) argued that emotional intelligence was the most potent factor in the "success equation". Kooker, et al. (2007) studied reflective stories written by 16 nurses about their experiences in which nursing knowledge made a difference, and reported that "all domains and competencies" (p. 33) of EI could be identified in the stories. They concluded that using an EI framework could "identify factors that could be related to improved nurse retention and patient/client outcomes" (p. 30). A later study, also based on analysis of nurses' stories of "memorable experiences that reflected the essence of nursing" (p. 943) suggested that various dimensions of EI, most frequently empathy, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, and emotional self-awareness were correlated with professionalism, performance level, and intuition (Codier, et al., 2010). However, these studies provided no measures of emotional intelligence or outcomes.

Using "interpretive phenomenological analysis" and exploring how participants make sense of experiences, Davies, et al., (2010) conducted semi-structured interviews about EI in a small sample of nurses who were unfamiliar with the construct. After analyzing the responses, they concluded that "Despite lack of familiarity with nomenclature, participants perceived EI as essential in providing quality care" (p. 145). Snow (2001) argued that emotionally intelligent leaders create a competitive advantage by improving nursing performance and nursing management, and better utilization of time and resources. Subsequently, Conley, et al., (2007) proposed that "Ideally, a nurse manager orientation program promotes the development of emotional intelligence by helping new managers appreciate the organization's culture and core values". Again, none of these studies provide any quantitative evidence that a hospital derives benefit from emotional intelligence. …

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