BACKGROUND: Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage emotions in oneself and others. It was originally popularized in the business literature as a key attribute for success that was distinct from cognitive intelligence. Increasing focus is being placed on EI in medicine to improve clinical and academic performance. Despite the proposed benefits, to our knowledge, there have been no previous studies on the role of EI in orthopedic surgery. We evaluated baseline data on EI in a cohort of orthopedic surgery residents.
METHODS: We asked all orthopedic surgery residents at a single institution to complete an electronic version of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). We used completed questionnaires to calculate total EI scores and 4 branch scores. Data were analyzed according to a priori cutoff values to determine the proportion of residents who were considered competent on the test. Data were also analyzed for possible associations with age, sex, race and level of training.
RESULTS: Thirty-nine residents (100%) completed the MSCEIT. The mean total EI score was 86 (maximum score 145). Only 4 (10%) respondents demonstrated competence in EI. Junior residents (p = 0.026), Caucasian residents (p = 0.009) and those younger than 30 years (p = 0.008) had significantly higher EI scores.
CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that orthopedic residents score low on EI based on the MSCEIT. Optimizing resident competency in noncognitive skills may be enhanced by dedicated EI education, training and testing.