Review of emotional intelligence in health care

an introduction to emotional intelligence for surgeons

Gary Sharp*, Lorna Bourke, Matthew J. F. X. Rickard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: The aim of this review is to explain the components of emotional intelligence (EI) and explore the benefits within today's health care system with an emphasis on surgery. EI is a person's ability to understand their own emotions and those of the individuals they interact with. Higher individual EI has multiple proposed benefits, such as reducing stress, burnout and increasing work satisfaction. The business world recognizes EI as beneficial in terms of performance and outcomes. Could surgeons benefit from being more cognisant of EI and methods of assessing and improving EI to reap the aforementioned benefits?. Methods: A search of Embase, Cochrane and Medline databases using the following search terms; emotional intelligen*, surg*, medic* yielded 95 articles. After review of all the literature 39 remaining articles and five text books were included. Results: To perform optimally, surgeons must be aware of their own emotions and others. EI differs from IQ and can be taught, learnt and improved upon. EI is measured via validated self-reporting questionnaires and ‘multi-rater’ assessments. High EI is positively associated with leadership skills in surgeons, non-technical skills, reduction in surgeon stress, burnout and increased job satisfaction, all of which translate to better patient relationships and care. Future implications of EI have been postulated as a measure of performance, a selection tool for training positions and a marker of burnout. EI should be an explicit part of contemporary surgical education and training.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-440
Number of pages8
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • burnout
  • emotional control
  • emotional intelligence
  • measurement
  • surgery

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