*IQ is not enough – develop your EQ, too*

Bnai Zion Medical Center is reputedly the first in the world to teach its employees how to boost their emotional intelligence.

March 28, 2015 22:06
IQ is not enough

IQ is not enough. (photo credit: TNS)


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Medical professionals tend to be a conservative lot who only change their routines when (if at all) the need to do so is tangible and incontrovertibly proven. Yet Dr.

Amnon Rofe, the director-general of Haifa’s Bnai Zion Medical Center, nevertheless agreed to be a pathfinder three years ago and approved the launching of courses in “emotional intelligence” (EI or EQ) for staffers.

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The program has proceeded from one department to another, with doctors, nurses and auxiliary workers included. Not only do they get along better as a result, but their rapport with patients and families is better, and verbal and physical violence is down. Researchers will soon publish studies in medical journals on the project; the state-owned hospital is the first in the world to adopt EI in its departments on a systematic basis.

“The program has changed a lot of things for the better,” Rofe, a gynecologist by training, told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview.

“It has changed the atmosphere and improved interpersonal relations among workers and with the patients. Our staff received new tools to cope with stressful situations and contain violent blowups in the hospital.

The working climate here has improved significantly.”

The EI courses have already been conducted in the pediatrics and anesthesiology departments, and have just begun in the emergency department, which is prone to stress and tension, as well as in obstetrics and surgery.

“We have given the program high priority. We are even thinking of expanding it to include first-year medical students involved in the hospital,” said Rofe, who attended workshops himself. “We did not need authorization for this from the Health Ministry, but we informed senior officials.”

EI IS defined as the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, discriminate among different emotions and label them appropriately and use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

There are three models of EI. The ability model, developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, focuses on the individual’s ability to process emotional information and use it to navigate the social environment. The trait model, developed by Konstantin Vasily Petrides, “Encompasses behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities and is measured through self report.” Finally, The New York Times science journalist Daniel Goleman chanced upon an article by Salovey and Mayer and proposed his own mixed model as a combination of the first two, defining EI as an collection of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance.

The EI advocates claim that individuals with high EI have greater mental health, outstanding job performance and more effective leadership skills. While there remain skeptics, in recent years scientific studies have been published that help characterize the neural mechanisms of emotional intelligence, as well as techniques that measure EI accurately.

Goleman popularized the subject in 1995 with his best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ. He focuses on self-awareness (the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions); self-regulation (controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances); social skill (managing relationships to move people in the desired direction); empathy (considering others’ feelings, especially when making decisions); and motivation (being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement).

EI principles include respecting oneself while understanding and accepting one’s strengths and weaknesses; assertiveness and defending personal rights and values in a socially acceptable, non-offensive and non-destructive manner; self-actualization and trying to improve oneself; stress management; respecting others’ feelings; social responsibility; and developing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion. The American journalist insisted that these skills are not inborn but that they need to be practiced and developed to improve one’s performance.

While some will consider this a lot of mumbo jumbo, others – including Bnai Zion managers and medical staffers – insist that the courses have made them more sensitive and better able to cope with the daily stresses of their work and improved the way they relate to patients.

“My e-mail inbox often contains queries, from, for example, a doctoral student in Bulgaria, a school teacher in Poland, a college student in Indonesia, a business consultant in South Africa, a management expert in the Sultanate of Oman, an executive in Shanghai.

“Business students in India read about EI and leadership; a CEO in Argentina recommends the book I later wrote on the topic. I’ve also heard from religious scholars within Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism that the concept of EI resonates with outlooks in their own faith,” Goleman wrote.

Since 1995, courses have been offered around the world, even for young children as well as adults, and they have been positively evaluated by scientists. Children achieve more in school, and employees do better at work. They are even used by companies as a way of assessing potential employees and promoting those they already have.

A CHANCE meeting between Rofe and Ayalla Reuven-Lelong, a management graduate of the University of Haifa who heads a company called EQ-EL, led to the beginning of the hospital’s adoption of the technique.

Lelong has been working in EI for 13 years, and over 30 companies (including Bank Discount and Bank Leumi) and organizations, have already participated in her EI courses.

In addition, her company is leading research at the Technion’s Rappaport Medical Faculty with the purpose of producing a profile of EI for doctors in the 21st century.

Bnai Zion, said Rofe, “Always paid attention to the emotional intelligence of our staff, even though we didn’t call it that. The attitudes toward our patients and their families were always supreme in our minds, as were good relationships among our employees. But there was still a need to invest in formally improving their well-being and boost positive feelings. We always selected our medical departments not only for their medical skills but also the way they relate to patients and colleagues.”

“I was at the beach and hurt my foot,” recalled Lelong in a Post interview.

“I went to Bnai Zion for treatment, and when the doctor treated me very nicely and explained things well, I praised him to the head of the emergency department. He told me that explaining things patiently was one of the most important characteristics of a doctor.”

Lelong suggested an EI workshop at the hospital to spread the word. It was regarded as successful, and Rofe agreed to its expansion throughout the medical center. “It costs money,” said the director-general, not specifying how much, “but it is not very expensive. Once staff members learn, they run their own courses for colleagues.”

“We distributed questionnaires – 115 questions in 40 minutes – about their emotional intelligence. We create an EI profile for the whole department. After the workshops and personal encounters, we used the same teams to ask the same questions again, and we found significant improvement,” said Lelong.

“EI is a measurable thing, proven by research published in many serious journals.”

The questionnaire is the standard one used for EI, available in 15 languages including Hebrew and Arabic, which is approved by the American professional organization that sets standards. “We were pleased to be invited in by Bnai Zion, because there is no other hospital in the world that has adopted EI in a strategic way,” said Lelong. “We create a work plan, hold workshops and personal meetings, and each department sets targets to improve the well-being of the medical staff, their effective communications and rapport with patients.” She admitted that “there were some staffers who didn’t want to join because they said they didn’t believe in the idea.”

Lelong said she aimed not only at teaching personnel at Bnai Zion but other medical centers as well. “Only recently, we lectured to 50 anesthesiologists at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. We are soon due to speak at a conference of hospital directors. Teaching EI in hospitals is different than in private companies that have a profit motive; in medical centers, the aim is not to increase profits. Our target is to reduce tension and pressure and to help staff to cope better with patients. If people come to work happier and have better relationships, they will function better.”

Dr. Tamar Tadmor, an internal medicine specialist who is studying hematology at Bnai Zion following a fellowship in Miami in the field of cancer immunology, was very pleased with the EI courses.

“We are concentrated on treating patients and learning our specialty.

There is so much to do. Some doctors think that without the courses, they already have a lot of emotional intelligence. When it began, I didn’t understand what it was for. But when I heard more, I realized that everybody has room for improvement.”

Tadmor noted that a study was conducted in her department in which a control group of personnel who didn’t take the course were compared with those who did, and that the results showed beneficial effects.

NURIT TZEZINSKY, a Bnai Zion nurse for a quarter of a century who has been in charge of pediatric nursing there for 11 years, said that the hospital’s chief of nursing initiated an EI workshop.

“For two years,” she said, “we were lodged in the basement of the hospital while a new department was being built for us. Our temporary conditions were terrible – so crowded and unsuitable. We were ashamed, and it was very stressful. But despite the conditions, the workshops increased our emotional intelligence and calmed us.

“Our security personnel said they couldn’t understand why there weren’t incidents of violence from patients and their relatives, but we explained that we had learned to handle difficult situations. We examined the satisfaction of patients, and it improved even before we moved to the news department last July. Our study will be published in Harefuah, the journal of the Israel Medical Association.”

“Our department was especially crowded in the winter because of flu complications. But thanks to the EI courses, we coped better as a team.

The courses can’t change he character of a person who is nasty, but I can change my way of reacting to him.

If I am sure of myself, I am able to communicate better. I don’t smile at a nasty person, but I speak him in a way in which I tell him his place. You don’t have to be nice to a nasty person,” the Bnai Zion nurse concluded.

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