Emotional Intelligence and Delivering Bad News: The Jury is Still Out

J Surg Educ. May-Jun 2019;76(3):779-784. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2018.09.017. Epub 2018 Nov 3.


Background: Emotional intelligence (EQ) has been proposed to be a critical competency necessary for complex and interpersonal interactions for healthcare providers.

Objective: The goal of this study was to examine how EQ impacts surgical residents' ability to deliver bad news.

Method: Residents participated in a patient death simulation, and instructed to disclose the news to the patient's sister. The encounter was recorded and graded according to a 10-point delivering bad news checklist (1%-100%). Residents also completed an EQ assessment (100 = average).

Results: Nineteen PGY-1 general surgery residents participated. Overall average performance on delivering bad news was 62% ± 22% and resident scores ranged from 20% to 90%. There was no correlation between EQ and delivering bad news.

Conclusions: This study failed to find evidence to support the notion that EQ is associated with trainee ability to deliver bad news, suggesting that more evidence is needed to support EQ's role in curricular and assessment endeavors.

Keywords: EQ; Interpersonal and Communication Skills; Professionalism; adverse events; bad news; communication; emotional intelligence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Educational Measurement
  • Emotional Intelligence*
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Simulation Training
  • Truth Disclosure*