Outcomes of Emotional Intelligence training for surgeons in a real-world setting: a mixed methods study

Matthew J. F. X. Rickard*, Desirée Kozlowski, Margaret Schnitzler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The objective was to assess, improve and re-assess Emotional Intelligence (EI) in a group of junior and senior surgeons in a real-world setting. Design: This was a mixed methods study. An EI education program was delivered through a series of webinars. The program drew from the central concepts of emotional intelligence: Motivation, empathy, social skills, self-knowledge, and self-control. There was also a component of professional development. EI assessment was performed pre- and post-intervention using the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and a series of targeted questions. Qualitative assessment was performed by means of structured interviews examining uptake in techniques, understanding of EI, and its effect on personal and professional life. Setting: The Australia and New Zealand Training Board in Colorectal Surgery administers a 2-year bi-national training program in teaching hospitals in Australia and New Zealand and runs a series of educational webinars throughout the training program. The “EI series” was part of this educational program. Participants: Webinars were attended by 35 junior surgeons and 8 senior surgeons Results: Self-perceived knowledge and use of EI increased from a mean of 3.6 to 6.5 (p<0.0001). There was a significant difference between experiential (94) and strategic (101) scores (p=0.005). There was a nonsignificant improvement (98.04-100.6, p=0.16), in the pre-post MSCEIT among the junior surgeons and no change for senior surgeons. Seventy-eight percent (25/32) of surgeons interviewed reported using any new EI strategies. Seventy-five percent actively stopped and considered what other people in a clinical scenario may be thinking; 78% commenced metacognition; 81% practiced the process of self-regulation; 66% had begun to recognise and use emotions as data; and, 47% had actively practiced the process of self-distancing Conclusion: This study demonstrated the feasibility and utility of delivering EI training in an online format to a group of time-poor surgeons in a real-world setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1445-1453
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • emotional competence
  • emotional intelligence
  • interpersonal skills communication
  • nontechnical skills
  • professional development
  • surgeons
  • training


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