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The Effect of Relationships on Your Nursing Career

By Keith Carlson via Multibriefs

When we consider what truly lies at the center of the world inhabited by most nurses, what we're really talking about is relationships. For all intents and purposes, relationships are powerful tools that fuel a nurse's career and professional satisfaction from the starting gate to the finish line.

Why Relationships Matter

Most nurses work in some form of collaborative environment, and relating with others can be key to successful nursing.

On the clinical side, it's easy to see how relationships can be central to career success and patient outcomes. Nurses must collaborate with doctors, other nurses, and a host of professional players, not to mention families and patients. There is so much to navigate in terms of people in the clinical space, whether in home health, the ICU, or flight nursing.

In the worlds of nursing scholarship, academia, entrepreneurship and research, nurses may work alone to some extent, but relationships still come into play. Research, academic work and entrepreneurship do not happen in a vacuum, thus we see that most nursing careers revolve around, or are fueled by, high-quality relationships.

Aside from professional connections, the nurse must also maintain both a social life and a family life, whether with extended family or a nuclear family at home. Career choices and the rigors of the job certainly impact those with whom nurses spend their time off.

Multiple Forms of Intelligence

The popular concept of emotional intelligence (EI) has to do with our ability to read and respond to the emotions of others, as well as our own. Taking that concept even further is the less well-known but equally crucial notion of relational intelligence, which entails the ability to skillfully and mindfully navigate relationships both at work and in our personal lives.

The thoughtful nurse can actively develop his or her emotional quotient (EQ) and relational intelligence in order to improve the quality of work relationships and create a robust professional network in the interest of career development and advancement.

For nurse leaders, a higher EQ can translate into strengthened ties with staff, reinforced lines of communication, and tighter team cohesion. For the clinical nurse on the floor or in the field, relational intelligence can transform the nurse-patient relationship and improve outcomes, as well as reinforce bonds with colleagues.

Intellectual acuity is powerful, but a nurse’s effectiveness can be just as influenced by other forms of intelligence that impact work performed in a highly collaborative environment.

Developing Relational Intelligence

For certain people, relational intelligence comes easily; some of us are naturally attuned towards relationships and interpersonal connection. For others, developing the skills of relating positively and powerfully requires more conscious effort.

There is a plethora of books and articles on the subjects of emotional and relational intelligence, as well as professionals who are well-versed in teaching such skills.

Forward-looking nurse leaders and executives can choose to hire consultants who can inject an organization’s culture with the concepts and practices of EI and relational intelligence.

The individual nurse can engage in personal self-improvement by focusing more acutely on the quality of relationships at work. This may involve the study of skills related to communication, listening, and the uses of body language. For nurse-patient relationships, the ideas behind motivational interviewing can also enhance the success of communication and patient teaching.

Relationships are central to the human condition, and nurses and healthcare organizations are no exception. Developing relational intelligence is a powerful means to a more satisfying career and significantly enhanced connections with others, both inside and outside the walls of the workplace.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, has been a nurse since 1996. He is the blogger behind the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway and a widely read freelance nurse writer. Keith is also the co-host of RNFM Radio, a popular Internet radio station devoted to the nursing profession. Under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching, Keith's passion is helping nurses and healthcare professionals create ultimate satisfaction in both their personal and professional lives.

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