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Selecting, Hiring and Developing for Healthcare Emotional Intelligence

December 17, 2015
Hospitals are getting on the emotional intelligence (“EQ”) train. With a new focus on patient satisfaction scores - hospitals, physicians and even medical schools are looking for ways to improve the physician-patient relationship, and enhance the patient and family experience.

From a recent FierceHealthcare Article:

  • The Cleveland Clinic has an Office of Patient Experience – a “boot camp for empathy, engagement, and service behaviors.”
  • Banner Health conducts a “language of caring for physicians” program to help with physician communication skills.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital has an “Empathy and Relational Science Program.”
  • University of South Florida’s medical school has a new SELECT program based on the idea that “[medical] students with higher emotional intelligence can become more engaged, compassionate physicians who work effectively with teams and can lead change in health care organizations.”
  • There is mounting evidence that enhanced physician empathy reduces readmission rates and increases patient satisfaction scores.
  • There is evidence that the traditional medical school process actually reduces empathy in residents, and some of the collaborative behaviors normally associated with high emotional intelligence are neglected.

Our team of industrial/organizational psychologists have spent the past several years adapting the principles of selection and hiring from other industries to healthcare. Now we’ve turned our attention to how the concept of emotional intelligence, long applied in business settings, translates to healthcare. 

As you think about adopting the progressive approaches of the organizations cited, above, think about the following:

  • There is still some resistance to this type of training because education in medicine and healthcare fields is steeped in tradition and healthcare professionals may have a hard time believing they need to develop interpersonal skills, believing that the compassion that drew them to the industry will serve them well.
  • There is still limited research on the correlation between emotional intelligence and outcomes, but it the most recent research is promising.
  • The traditional measures of EQ may be inadequate. They were not developed with healthcare or the provider-patient relationship, in mind.
    • Traditional measures like the Bar-On EQ-I, and the Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale (MEIS) are general EQ measures and provide no healthcare- specific guidance as to how to use the results. 
    • General psychological screening tools like the Meyers-Briggs are not particularly useful in this area.

Healthcare Emotional Intelligence (“HEQ”)

At Select International, we are working on the specific concept of “Healthcare Emotional Intelligence” (“HEQ”) wherein EQ is measured with the unique nature of the healthcare setting in mind. In our experience, training on EQ and patient-centered care skills, to be effective, MUST take into the consideration the HEQ profile of the individuals in the training. Each person in training needs to take away an understanding of how their own profile impacts patients, families and colleagues. Then every physician, nurse and allied health professional can develop specific behaviors that will improve their interactions with others – the interactions that make up the patient experience and establish the culture of the organization.

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.