Emotional Intelligence and Medical Specialty Choice

emotional intelligence

The relationships between doctor personalities and medical specialties continues to interest me since we regularly have to select excellent young physicians to become psychiatrists. The usual caricatures of different specialties just won’t suffice as in the differences between surgeons and internists. It’s fun to read so if anyone knows some about psychiatrists and others please let me know and please don’t come up with psychologists.

What makes physicians choose a particular specialty? In medical education assessment of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is now used as part of the selection process for some medical school applicants in an effort to consider an applicant’s competence in interpersonal skills. EI is also important in the patient doctor relationship. Research showed that the patient doctor relationship (PDR) is considered to be very important to people, second to family relationships, more important than relationships with coworkers or spiritual advisors. There is also some evidence that higher EI in doctors is important to the PDR. The most important quality of the PDR is trust.

What is Emotional Intelligence?
The ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate between them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions. EI involves skills that are important for medical disciplines especially for those specialties that make more use of interpersonal connectedness such as primary physicians and psychiatrists.

Three separate studies examined medical students’ EI and medical specialty choice. The classifications used for specialty choice were:

  • primary care (family practice, internal medicine,paediatrics) versus non-primary care (all others)
  • primary care, hospital-based specialties (anaesthesiology,emergency medicine, pathology,radiology), and technical and surgical specialties(neurology, obstetrics and gynaecology, ophthalmology,and all surgical fields).
  • dermatology, psychiatry and physical medicine and rehabilitation were excluded from these classifications

They used three EI tests: the Mayer–Salovey–Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), the Trait–Meta–Mood Scale (TMMS), and the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-I).

Results

little compelling evidence was found linking students’ EI with their eventual choice of medical career. Overall results suggest that medical students’ EI is typical of or slightly above that of the population of college-age adults.

Studies with larger samples and longitudinal comparisons are needed. It also remains unclear whether EI is of relevance for clinical skills, medical education and patient care. Especially since it can develop by aging and life experience. Is life experience a qualification for med school? Maybe EI is an innate feature of some.

What do you think is Emotional Intelligence of use for medical specialty choice?

ResearchBlogging.org
Borges, N., Stratton, T., Wagner, P., & Elam, C. (2009). Emotional intelligence and medical specialty choice: findings from three empirical studies Medical Education, 43 (6), 565-572 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03371.x