The entire world has been introduced to an invisible monster that has crippled our existence. The reported, unprecedented death tolls have been staggering with no foundational resolve near. In the midst of chaos, health care professionals continued to serve patience and uphold their professional creed. However, as the staggering number of deaths arise, in the shadows are emotionally wounded and traumatized health care professionals. Although many of these workers received professional training to meet the health care needs of patients, one void continues to “show its face.” This void is the absence of emotional intelligence during traumatic, controlled chaos. The development of emotional intelligence, particularly self-awareness, is critical because of the implication it has on the employee and those who are directly and indirectly affected by the work they perform.
Research has proven that self-awareness education has an increased positive effect on coping and addressing death and dying. As a result of the mental and emotional destruction of COVID-19, health care professionals have experienced the impact of stress, due to the nature of the work they perform. The responsibility of caring for decedents, addressing the social and emotional needs of famlies, the alienation of performing duties and the possibility of being exposed to COVID-19 have the potential to create stress and, ultimately, burnout in the workplace. These factors contribute to increased absenteeism, physical illnesses, emotional problems, poor job performance and negative attitudes.
Self-awareness is the ability to explore and act upon personal intuition which guides actions. Unfortunately, care professionals’ educational experiences have not adequately focused on self-awareness as it relates to emotional intelligence (EI). There is a great need to explore how EI, particularly self-awareness, is developed and maintained to work in the health care profession. When care professionals are trained, self-awareness education tends to take place in a specific domain, as opposed to being part of an integrated system that prepares care professionals for emotional labor. Self-awareness education has proven to have an increased positive effect on coping and addressing death and dying. When care professionals interact with patients, they must have the capacity to invoke the proper internal attitudes and properly address their needs. Self-awareness drives the ability to perform effectively based on “standards of correctness,” which drives how behavior is transformed to meet performance standards.
Organizations and institutions of higher learning have the responsibility to develop the self-awareness of their most precious resource: employees. The manner in which employees perform in the workplace has a direct correlation with personal experiences and awareness related to how those experiences affect personal state. The influence of adverse childhood experiences (ACES), unresolved conflicts, family dynamics, cultural biases and worldviews all have the potential to influence performance. Care professionals are vulnerable to high levels of burnout, which can lead to higher staff turnover, excessive sick leave, reduced productivity and deteriorated health. Care professionals can gain levels of consciousness and stay healthy by deeply exploring the missing link of emotional intelligence, self-awareness. We must all find our missing links in life.
Dr. James W. Dix, III is a mindfulness practitioner, child advocate, and founder of Urban Family Initiative (UFI) in Indianapolis. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.ufamilyi.com.