April 22, 2019By Matthew Charnetski

7 Practical Tips to Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence via Medical Simulation

Emotional intelligence is typically developed over time with extensive introspection, so consider these 7 tips to get started and demonstrate emotional intelligence via medical simulation on day one. Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been a buzzword and hot topic in leadership and management for several years now. There are books and blogs, seminars and workshops; and for every different method of learning about EI, the final message is to keep practicing. This is completely true. However, sometimes one needs to demonstrate a little EI before they’ve had enough time to practice. Just as importantly, some elements of EI can be accomplished without years of practice and might buy a little extra space and performance in order to be able to keep building up the more nuanced areas of this valuable set of tools. Read on for 7 practical tips to start being emotionally intelligent!

In Healthcare Simulation Education, Emotional Intelligence can make an enormous difference in how one approaches nearly every interaction they may have. From Simulation Specialists to Medical Directors, Simulation Educators to Simulation Technical Specialists; the more tools one has for collaborating and working as a team, the better the entire team functions and the experience improves for everyone. Students, Faculty, Staff and, ultimately, patients, improved communication and teamwork makes Healthcare and Healthcare Simulation stronger, more efficient, and more pleasant.

To start, though, what actually is Emotional Intelligence? Commonly EI is considered to be the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. Often, this gets dismissed somewhat immediately because it sounds so soft and squishy. Or there are questions about the value of emotions in the workplace, particularly in technical and healthcare fields. And, on the other end of the spectrum, one might dismiss it as manipulative and sociopathic. The fact of the matter is that these tools are none of those things. All humans experience emotion. Each one has different experiences, expressing and managing those emotions differently than another person. So, what does one do with that? Read on for some tips on exhibiting EI while developing the rest of the skillset.

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1. Actions Speak Louder Than Words

What one thinks, says, and does can make all of the difference in the world. Not only is it important that one’s words and actions match, each layer of this can affect how one is perceived and the attitude with which one approaches others. What one thinks effects their approach. What one says effects other’s perception. What one does reflects one’s credibility and consistency.

Privacy and respect in simulation environments, specifically interprofessional environments are places where thoughts, words, and actions need to mirror one another. Eye contact, respectful communication, and professional deference will all demonstrate the interprofessional respect that is essential to the delivery of high-quality healthcare.

In care and in clinical simulation, these actions will further cement the required thoughts and actions that are required to form high reliability teams.

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2. Consider a Decision-Making Paradigm

One should constantly examine how they do things. Decision making is no different. How does one approach problems? What is the first step, at the very least? There is a wilderness adage of “don’t just do something, stand there.” One should take a breath and consider the path ahead. Begin with the end in mind. One should start by identifying the issue at hand. Then, consider their own response and the response of others around them. What emotions are at play? What other thoughts and emotions might be tied up in the situation? What obstacles are present, real or less tangible? How does the team progress from there?

There are not, necessarily, right or wrong decision-making approaches. Being able to walk through that process in a clear fashion is, however, essential. One should consider using a framework as a lens to examine any decision-making. Consider ORID, Genesis, DACI, and Difficult Conversations are all frameworks for decision making and conversations that will help inform problems prior to engaging with them. Whether it be team members or learners, most people will approach problems with some logic, if their process doesn’t meet expectations, walk through one of these frameworks to see where the disagreement is. This helps to address things efficiently and without adding additional stress.

3. Use the Basic Assumption

“We are intelligent, well-educated, trained, well-intentioned professionals who strive to do our best.” Keeping that in the back of one’s mind is great for debriefing but can make all the difference in nearly every other interaction one has. Particularly those that involve any degree of emotion. Look back to the thinking portion of item 1, maintaining the basic assumption can completely alter one’s approach to a problem or interaction.

This underlying thought earns its own point in emotional intelligence. Though it clearly relates to both items one and two, this is a lens that is essential to demonstrating emotional intelligence. In order to forgo any specific judgement of a person, one must place that person on a level pedestal. If these assumptions are maintained, demonstrating emotional intelligence becomes much easier.

4. Just like in healthcare, remember the ABCs

Instead of Airway – Breathing – Circulation… Always Be Curious. Questions navigate better than statements. Properly formed questions help clear pretenses of judgement and can help to avoid triggering or exacerbating emotions.

“Common sense isn’t so common…”  There is a tendency amongst anyone functioning at a high level of any profession to overlap fundamental education points with “common sense.”  This assumption can undermine the demonstration of emotional intelligence. Instead, set aside any presumption of common anything and ask questions. Explore the gap between expectation and performance.

5. Be Vulnerable

No one is perfect. Everyone needs help. Simulation Education happens in teams. Healthcare happens in teams. Emotional Intelligence transcends both of these fields. One should be compassionate toward themselves and toward others. Appropriate vulnerability can make compassion in both directions possible. Own mistakes. Consider processes. Steer clear of shame and blame. One should be vulnerable so everyone can be vulnerable. That’s how teams grow and bond.

6. Advocate and Inquire

Above, questions navigate better than statements, isn’t entirely unequivocal. The way one asks questions can make or break many of these steps. If one is already being consistent in their actions, using the Basic Assumption, being curious and vulnerable; a poorly worded question can still shut down an interaction. So, be clear. Just like in debriefing practice. One should state what the issue is that they’d like to discuss. State what they think about it. And invite discussion.

7. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

All of these steps buy time and space. One can start using each of them immediately. This doesn’t mean that one ought to stop working toward being emotionally intelligent. These tools simply give a starting point. A foundation for continuing to study and practice. To explore one’s own thoughts and reactions. To learn to navigate tenuous situations, one must slowly navigate more tenuous situations and then reflect on past performance.

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Today’s article was guest authored by Matthew Charnetski, MSMS, NRP, Director of Simulation Learning at NYIT at Arkansas State University and Adjunct Faculty at Drexel University. The last 20-ish years have been a strange whirlwind from Iowa to Antarctica, Kazakhstan to Arkansas of Wilderness and Critical Care Paramedicine, Information Technologies Support, and Healthcare Simulation Operations and Curriculum Design.

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