As we can see here, researchers are likely to differ considerably in the way that they assess or prioritize competencies. But there does tend to be a certain consensus on the idea that certain overlapping emotional qualities may be used to project one's occupational capacity and propensities. The source by Cherniss goes on to identify certain behavioral features that are most typically found in those with high levels of emotional intelligence, pointing to several that correlate perfectly to the healthcare profession. Among them, Cherniss identifies the ability of the individual to manage stress as a primary indicator of emotional intelligence. Given the sometimes extremely pressurized atmosphere of the nursing home -- where the needs and demands of highly compromised patients can often be impossible to juggle -- the capacity of the healthcare worker to manage stress is tantamount to his or her long-term survival within the profession.
Cherniss also points to optimism as "another emotional competence that leads to increased productivity. New salesmen at Met Life who scored high on a test of 'learned optimism' sold 37% more life insurance in their first two years than pessimists." (p. 1) This denotes that a higher level of emotional intelligence may also be indicated by the ability to find ways to channel and apply optimism on the job. In the context of the nursing home, where patients may gain a significant psychological boost from a posture, tone and demeanor which reflect optimism, high levels of emotional intelligence amongst healthcare workers may be a determinant of the quality of life for long-term care patients such as those at my facility. The text by "6 Seconds" goes on to endorse this claim by reporting that optimism is a skill which can be taught, implying that this is a capacity which is gained in those already possessing certain distinct emotional competencies as identified above.
In spite of the clear importance of emotional intelligence in the context of the healthcare profession, the subject remains highly susceptible to disagreement. This makes training and education in the importance of emotional intelligence difficult to standardize and proliferate. Likewise, it makes it more difficult for healthcare recruiters to identify the specific emotional traits which are of the greatest value in potential hires. So denotes the text by Cartwright (2008), which indicates, "the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) has attracted a huge amount of interest from both academics and practitioners and has become linked to a whole range of outcomes, including career success, life satisfaction and health. Yet the concept itself and the way in which it is measured continue to fuel considerable debate." (p. 149)
This debate points to the need for greater consensus on how best to measure emotional intelligence as it relates directly to professional outcomes in the healthcare setting. As an occupational therapist, my greatest interest is in seeing that these features are sought in new recruits and that they are stimulated or refined in existing personnel.
Self-Directed Learning Plan:
According to the text by Goleman et al. (2004), the individual scoring high in the area of emotional intelligence will possess the capacity to engage in 'intentional change,' which is critical to adjusting to the pressures of the healthcare profession. Here below, I engage directly in the type of self-disclosure and critical internal assessment that are highlighted in Boyatzis' theory of Self-Directed Learning. As channeled through Boyatzis' so-called Five Discoveries, I promote a self-directed learning plan by engaging in the hypothetical exercise of these Discoveries.
Step 1: Who do you want to be? (1st Discovery)
In the first discovery, I must reconcile my initial assumptions about myself with realities in my personal disposition. One of the first 'discoveries' which I would make about myself when entering into this field would concern the omnipresence of death in the nursing home context. Given that our patients are elderly or deeply infirm, facing death is one of the realities of the job. I assumed that I was prepared to address this upon my first arrival at the facility. However, I would soon learn that I became nervous and uncomfortable when forced to discuss the impending death of a patient with the patient and his or her family. This would be an important discovery, and one that would require me to significantly change my emotional responsiveness. My nervousness and discomfort could be felt and seen by patients and I have since learned to channel these feelings instead into honesty and compassion. I try to make the dignity of the patient and his or her family the utmost of my emotional considerations.
Step 2: Who are you now? (2nd Discovery)
The second discovery essentially asks me to take a look in the mirror as a professional. In doing so, I must address current gaps between who I am today and who I might ideally be. Here, I see a competent professional who yet has limited experience within the field. Each day sees new challenges, many of which may catch me off guard. Indeed, in my early development, I have occasionally been alarmed by the ravages of psychological aging. As I look at my professional reflection, I aspire to have compiled the experience to be emotionally prepared for any such challenges to my occupational sensibility.
Step 3: How do you get from here to there? (3rd Discovery)
The third step in my self-directed learning plan denotes that I cannot simply hope to stumble upon the change which I seek. To the contrary, I must devise a particular path to achieving this. It is thus that my third discovery is denoted by a newfound emphasis on continuing professional development. Here, I view the accumulation of experience as a function of occupational longevity. This, in turn, may be accomplished through an ongoing participation in courses of education, in training, and in special dispatches to different types of healthcare contexts where I can hone the emotional skills required for a life in this profession.
Step 4: How do you make change stick? (4th Discovery)
The fourth discovery is concerned with rendering this plan of action as an actual set of behavioral changes. As our research on emotional intelligence, and particularly that offered by Goleman et al., would indicate, changing one's behavior requires an alteration in the way that one thinks about things. In my case, the discomfort that I have felt over discussing issues of death and the unexpected surprise felt at the extent of decline in some patients denotes the need for a change in perspective. Particularly, I have discovered here the need for a change in my perspective on the end-of-life stage in the human life cycle. A greater appreciation for the natural aspects of this decline and the inherency of death may provide me with the emotional fortitude to continue in this profession long enough to be prepared for any emotional challenge.
Step 5: Who can help you? (5th Discovery)
A fifth and critical discovery as I have advanced my self-directed learning agenda is that relating to the creation of a professional and personal support network. Though independence and self-determination are crucial objectives in the refinement of one's emotional intelligence, so too is recognition of the important role that other's play in my education, my observation and my channeling of personal strength.
The resolution of this Self-Directed Learning processes is a confirmation of the value of emotional intelligence in fields such as healthcare provision. Indeed, the Five Discoveries imply that emotional intelligence may be inherent, but the various emotional competencies associated with personal power and occupational success must be developed through intensive self-investigation and a commitment to constant self-betterment as a professional and as a person.
6 Seconds. (2004). Benefits of Emotional Intelligence on Life, Education, Business, and Health. 6 Seconds.org.
Abraham, R.: Emotional competence as antecedent to performance: a contingency framework.
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