Emotional Intelligence in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Dr James Stoller from the Cleveland Clinic published this review on emotional intelligence needed in ICU physicians/practitioners.

You can be the smartest person in the world but unless you have developed the key components of emotional intelligence, many of those skills will not have their time to shine. 

When I was in training, I cared for a patient who was critically ill and unfortunately terminal. The entire medical staff knew it and was on the same page. The patient was encephalopathic, peaceful. Family came in. The first day I spoke to them they were resistant. Granny is a fighter. I explained the medical situation but understood their position. They went home informed of the situation but still hanging on. The next day they came back and again we sat down and spoke. They were more open that day. They had done some research. They had slept on it. I showed them the scans and labs. Answered their questions to the best of my ability. They said they likely were going to make a decision the next day. Super nice people. Extremely gracious in every way. Just not ready to let go. That’s okay. Granny wasn’t suffering. 

On the day they promised to make the decision they did. We sat down, discussed everything again and I answered all their questions yet again. I explained how the comfort care management went. They proceeded to change the code status. Paperwork was signed. I discussed everything with my attending. Let me be clear before I move on: If my life is on the line I would love for this clinician to take care of me. Brilliant brilliant dude who I aspire to be like one day. He was simply missing the emotional intelligence in the ICU screw. 

I followed him into the room and he delivered the same information I delivered. But not in the same way. The body language was different, the tone was different, he didn’t give off the aura of being trustworthy even though he totally was. Family changed the patient back to full code. Again, he said NOTHING different that I was said. None of the words were different. 

I walked out of that room livid. I was upset at my attending. But I love that dude. Developing the skills of emotional intelligence are paramount in the ICU which is why I had to share this paper by Dr. James Stoller here and on my podcast. 💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼

Check out my podcast on the Emotional Intelligence in the ICU

Stoller JK, Leadership Essentials for the Chest Physician: Emotional Intelligence, CHEST (2020), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2020.09.093.
Link to Article

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