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Why Your Neonatologist Needs Emotional Intelligence to Improve Outcomes

Healthcare leaders meeting to discuss the impacts of emotional intelligence on neonatology

Every day, women and families across the world deal with complications during what may have otherwise seemed like a normal pregnancy. With 1 in 10 babies being delivered prematurely, how is an expectant family supposed to prepare for a situation they don’t fully understand? Given the high risk of very-low birth weight babies, how are hospitals improving outcomes for fragile infants and also consoling frightened parents?

A recent study sought to answer these questions by studying a relatively new system being championed by those practicing evidence-based medicine: The Golden-Hour approach. Researchers found that, “Collaboration based in excellent communication between the obstetrical, anesthesia, neonatology, and family support services is vital,” to stabilize these babies immediately after birth and provide the best patient experience to their families.

The study focused on two key areas related to the Golden Hour when searching for improved outcomes. The first factor researchers highlighted was having experienced specialists available in the hospital at all times. The Golden Hour approach encourages neonatal teams to employ strategies which stabilize very-low birth weight babies within the first hour after birth and increase their survival rate. For these strategies to be successful, skilled neonatologists must be present to begin working with the infant within the first few minutes of life. Multiple studies have shown the dangers of transporting these fragile babies—even simply “across the street”—so it is essential that highly skilled, trained, and experienced providers be available in-house 24/7.

“Hospitals must staff providers who are not only highly skilled and experienced, but who also possess soft skills like emotional intelligence and place a high value on teamwork”

Secondly, researchers explained that hospitals must staff providers who are not only highly skilled and experienced, but who also possess soft skills like emotional intelligence and place a high value on teamwork. In order to successfully complete Golden-Hour strategies, numerous specialists and departments must work together and function as a proper team, placing these strategies above their own personal preferences for the sake of the patient.

Many complex decisions regarding treatment and family counseling must often be made in a relatively short period of time. Coordinating these services can be extremely difficult, so providers must excel in building and maintaining relationships with their fellow team members.

Beyond working with their fellow providers, these specialists must also be able to clearly communicate difficult concepts to families during highly stressful times. Researchers note that, “The family needs to be kept appraised of the situation,” and also, “supported emotionally,” by the hospital team. It is essential that hospital administrators partner with providers who possess the emotional intelligence needed to care for these families.

When complications arise and complex decisions must be made, hospitals will benefit greatly from partnering with skilled, experienced, and emotionally intelligent providers. As the study states, “Strong communication, team-work, medical knowledge, and clinical skills are essential.” Employing the Golden-Hour strategies in this way will both improve outcomes for these fragile infants and improve the overall patient experience, leading to increased retention.

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