October 10, 2023

Embracing Emotions in Nursing: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

4 minutes

Nursing is a demanding and emotionally taxing profession. Nurses are responsible for the care and well-being of patients, and they often witness firsthand the suffering, trauma, and loss that come with illness and injury. It is no wonder that nurses are expected to be strong, resilient, and stoic, to be able to handle the emotional weight of their work.

However, this expectation of emotional detachment can be harmful to both nurses and their patients.

One of the biggest misconceptions about nursing culture is that nurses must leave all emotions and feelings at the door. This idea of "putting on an armor of stoicism" is pervasive in the nursing profession, and it is often reinforced by the belief that nurses should be strong and unemotional, able to handle whatever comes their way. However, this expectation is unrealistic and can lead to feelings of isolation, burnout, and compassion fatigue among nurses.

There is a growing recognition in the nursing profession that emotional intelligence is an important aspect of nursing practice.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one's own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It is the ability to be empathetic and compassionate, to be able to connect with patients and to understand their needs.

Giving nurses permission to feel involves creating a culture of emotional intelligence.

There are several ways to do this:
  1. Encourage authenticity and transparency: Create a psychologically safe environment where nurses feel comfortable sharing their emotions and feelings.
  2. Provide emotional support and resources: Encourage peer-to-peer connection as a primary intervention when appropriate. Authentic human connection and access to resources can help nurses process and cope with the emotional weight of their work.
  3. Promote self-care: Encourage nurses to take care of their own emotional and physical well-being by providing them with self-care resources, such as mindfulness practice.
  4. Recognize and acknowledge the emotional demands of nursing: Acknowledge the emotional demands of the profession and commit to providing nurses with the space to process their emotions during their shift.
  5. Lead by example: Role model how to recognize and manage emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Encourage nurses to take care of their emotional well-being, and model healthy emotional expression and self-care in your own habits as a leader.

Nurses must give themselves permission to feel. Healthcare organizations must provide the safety and culture to do so. Embracing emotions and feelings is not a sign of weakness, but of humanity.

By creating a culture of emotional intelligence and support, nurses will feel empowered to express their feelings and emotions, which will ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes.

Daria Byrne