1. Park, Chan W. MD, FAAEM
  2. Holtschneider, Mary Edel MEd, MPA, BSN, RN, NPDA-BC, NREMT-P, CPTD

Article Content

As we progress through 2022 and our column series exploring how building personal capabilities is essential to enhancing our interprofessional learning environments, it has become clear to us that in order for nursing professional development (NPD) practitioners to effectively carry out their emotional intelligence (EI) skills, they should actively reflect on their own development needs (Kashman, 2021). The term EI has been commonly used for over 25 years, yet do we know what it actually means? What are the elements that comprise this overarching skill?

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In our previous columns this year, we introduced the Association for Talent Development (ATD) Capability Model, which encompasses three large domains essential for those of us dedicated to the professional development of others. The three domains, developing professional capability, impacting organizational capability, and building personal capability, delineate skills that we must have in order to be "future ready" (Galagan et al., 2020). EI is one of these essential skills under building personal capability.


We often hear the term EI in our leadership circles. For some of us, this is a relatively new term. Those in middle and upper management have likely experienced educational programs on EI and how to apply it to their work settings. Despite much fanfare and widespread educational efforts, there remains a bit of confusion as to what EI is. Is it an inherited trait like intelligence quotient or a skill that we can improve upon with practice? The answer is both. Individuals inherit proclivities and innate propensities that contribute to their overall EI, and this ability or skill can be improved upon through persistence, deliberate practice, and effective feedback.


From a leaning and development perspective, ATD defines EI as "the ability to understand, assess, and regulate your own emotions; correctly interpret the verbal and nonverbal behaviors of others; and adjust your behavior in relation to others." How does this impact our workplace and professional culture?


To appreciate the historical development of EI, one can reference Daniel Goleman's seminal work, Emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995), where he explored then-emerging scientific insights into emotions and how they affect our lives. Since then, Goleman and many others have delved into EI and applied it to workplace leadership skills. For example, Goleman (2015) identified five overarching EI components, including self-awareness (knowing one's strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others), self-regulation (controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses and moods), motivation (relishing achievement for its own sake), empathy (understanding other people's emotional makeup), and social skills (building rapport with others to move them in desired directions). Often, those who have strong EI skills employ them in a manner that appears natural. Though they make EI look easy, they likely have done significant self-reflection.


Workplace Relevance

In seeking a variety of practical strategies to enhance EI personal capabilities, we decided to consult with several individuals who have earned the new NPD advanced certification (NPDA-BC) developed by the Association for Nursing Professional Development in 2021, as they likely would have a depth of experience to share. We asked them to share personal experiences in the workplace where they have seen NPD practitioners either make mistakes or miss opportunities to exercise EI skills.


Mary G. Harper, PhD, RN, NPD-BC, NPDA-BC, reflected on her interactions with NPD department directors and those who work in larger health systems.


"What comes to my mind is the number of NPD department leaders who fail to recognize their department's achievements and promote their contributions to the organization. I think a lack of confidence may play into that. Also, I find that many NPD practitioners lack the ability or confidence to speak up when offended, such as when unintentional microaggressions occur, and thereby lose the opportunity to help others understand how their actions are perceived. I have also seen a trend that when healthcare systems merge, some NPD leaders dig their heels in and refuse to adjust to system methods. They might respond by saying that they have their "own" nurse residency program and do not need to do it the "system" way as opposed to getting involved in the initiative to ensure it meets their needs."


Kari Schmidt, MS, RN, NPDA-BC, ACC, referenced her consulting and coaching practice, where she explained,


"I am impressed by the commitment of our NPD colleagues to support the development of others, often putting that before their own development. While I would not call this a mistake, I see it as a missed opportunity born from good intentions. Competing priorities, especially in the current environment, set the stage for NPD practitioners to focus on urgent and emergent needs of others. With that said, some of our colleagues share frustration in developing and integrating more advanced skills and further development of EI attributes themselves. Self-awareness and thoughtful insight, combined with frustration in a complex environment and decreasing self-care, contribute to decreased or perhaps not increased self-regulation. Some individuals identify missed opportunities as they reflect in practice-that real time awareness of "I should have handled that better." Some identify missed opportunities as they reflect on practice-that drive home after an exhausting day and that uh-oh moment of "I could have said[horizontal ellipsis]." In both of these scenarios, self-awareness can lead to more frustration unless channeled into one's own learning.


As I coach individuals I ask, "What did you learn from your self-reflection? How can you use that insight in future similar situations?" As I listen to the answers to these questions, I am always impressed with the insightful and thoughtful responses. Then I ask what may be the most important next question, "Is there anything else you can learn from additional reflection?" If the answer is no, then the key is to let it go. In other words, stop the ruminating as it is only draining your energy. As we know, that is easier said than done. We then discuss cues an individual can give themselves to avoid or end the ruminating. One example is to visualize a giant stop sign in front of them. Stop thinking about that situation. You already identified all the possible learnings from your reflection. Now, practice integrating the learnings. Again, this is easier said than done. The energy in follow-up conversations where the individual has applied the learnings and enhanced their skills is palpable. It becomes self-reinforcing. For me, it reinforces how honored I am to partner with colleagues with such high levels of commitment to further developing their personal capabilities and commitment to role modeling ongoing professional development."


We appreciate the insight that these NPD specialists certified at the advanced level shared with us. From their comments, it appears that so much revolves around being self-aware because if that is lacking, it is hard to improve on the other four. Dr. Harper's observation that NPD department leaders and other NPD practitioners lack confidence to express themselves certainly aligns with lack of self-awareness. Ms. Schmidt's suggestion to refrain from ruminating about things that must be released aligns well with developing greater self-regulation. Both examples illustrate opportunities for mindful NPD practitioners to practice incorporating EI skills in the challenging work environment.


What practical strategies have you used to develop your EI skills? Please email us at and to further this dialogue.




Galagan P., Hirt M., Vital C. (2020). Capabilities for talent development: Shaping the future of the profession. ATD Press. [Context Link]


Goleman D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. Bantam Books. [Context Link]


Goleman D. (2015). What makes a leader? In Harvard business review, Harvard Business School Publishing. [Context Link]


Harper M., Maloney P. (Eds.) (2016). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice (3rd ed.). Association for Nursing Professional Development.


Kashman S. (2021). Leadership development. In Rider G., Burandt J., Papavaritis N. (Eds.), ATD talent development and training in healthcare handbook (pp. 271-289). ATD Press. [Context Link]