Resident Doctors Score High in Emotional Intelligence

Physicians-in-training tend to score quite high in emotional intelligence, compared to the general public, according to a new study of resident pediatricians and med-peds (combined internal medicine and pediatrics) at Loyola University (Chicago) Health System.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

The participants scored highest in the subcategories of impulse control, empathy and social responsibility and lowest in assertiveness, flexibility, and independence.

Emotional intelligence is a particularly important skill for doctors, as it plays a significant role in determining his or her professional bedside manner. It can also act as a buffer against the typically high stress levels of the profession and protect against burnout. Emotional intelligence also helps patients gain trust, which in turn leads to better doctor-patient relationships, increased patient satisfaction, and better patient compliance.

The study was conducted by Ramzan Shahid, M.D., an associate professor and director of the pediatric residency program; Jerold Stirling, M.D., professor and chair of Loyola’s department of pediatrics; and William Adams, M.A., a biostatistician in the health sciences division of Loyola University Chicago.

While there have been other studies assessing emotional intelligence in physicians, most of these have not included pediatric residents. To address this need, the Loyola study enrolled 31 pediatric and 16 med-peds residents at Loyola.

A resident is a physician who, following medical school, practices in a hospital under the supervision of an attending physician. A pediatric residency lasts three years, and a med-peds residency lasts four years.

For the study, residents completed the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0, a validated 133-item online survey that assesses emotional intelligence skills.

As a group, the subjects had a median score of 110, which is considered in the high range. The average score for the general population is 100. The physicians scored the highest in the subcategories of impulse control (114), empathy (113), and social responsibility (112) and lowest in assertiveness (102), flexibility (102), and independence (101).

Residents in their third and fourth years of training scored higher in assertiveness (109) than residents in their first and second years (100). This could be related to the acquisition of new knowledge and skills and increased self-confidence as residents progress in their training. However, first- and second-year residents scored higher in empathy (115.5) than third- and fourth-year senior residents (110).

“One could hypothesize: Does a resident’s level of assertiveness increase at the cost of losing empathy?” the authors wrote.

No differences were found in emotional intelligence composite scores between males and females or between pediatric and med-peds residents.

“Educational interventions to improve resident emotional intelligence scores should focus on the areas of independence, assertiveness, and empathy,” the authors wrote. “These interventions should help them become assertive but should ensure they do not lose empathy.”

The findings are published in the Journal of Contemporary Medical Education.

Source: Loyola University Health System