Systematic Review of Emotional Intelligence in Surgical Education

Publication/Presentation Date



Introduction: Emotional intelligence (EI) was first coined in 1990 as a successful leadership skillset comprised of self-management, social awareness, and empathy. EI has wide-reaching applications to the surgical field including teamwork, patient care, and job satisfaction. Positive linkage has been made between higher EI levels in both the patient-doctor relationship and physicians in a leadership role. The purpose of our systematic review was to evaluate the use of EI in surgical education and assess whether its prevalence has grown with the general acceptance of EI in many fields including medicine. A secondary aim was to compare the incorporation of EI in surgical education to other fields of graduate medical education.

Methods: A MEDLINE search was performed for publications containing both “surgery” and “emotional intelligence” with at least one term present in the title. Articles were included if EI in surgical education was considered a significant focus. The results were grouped by publication date in 5-year increments to identify temporal trends. A separate series of MEDLINE searches were performed with the phrase “emotional intelligence” in any field and either “surg*”, “internal medicine”, “pediatric”, “neurology”, “obstetric”, “gynecology”, “OBGYN”, “emergency”, and “psychiatr*” in the title with no constraints on publication date. OBGYN articles were combined in one category. Articles were included if they discussed resident education as the primary subject.

Results: A total of 25 articles satisfied the MEDLINE search criteria and 7 articles satisfied inclusion criteria. These were sorted by publication date with 0, 1, and 6 articles published between 2001-2005, 2005-2010, and 2010-2015, respectively. Notable trends include: 1) EI is partially inborn, but proven to be learned; 2) Surgical residents have higher EI than the national average; 3) Educational shifts are needed to improve outcomes for the surgeon, patient, health network, and community at large. The comparative data for articles on EI and resident education showed 8 in surgery, 2 in internal medicine, 0 in pediatrics, 0 in neurology, 0 in OBGYN, 0 in emergency, and 4 in psychiatry.

Conclusion: Integration of EI principles is a growing trend within surgical education. Emphasis has been placed on quantitative assessment of EI in residents and residency applicants. Further study is warranted on the integration process of EI in surgical education and its impact on patient outcomes and long-term job satisfaction.


Medicine and Health Sciences | Other Medical Specialties | Surgery


Department of Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics Faculty, Department of Surgery, Department of Surgery Faculty, Department of Surgery Residents, USF-LVHN SELECT Program, USF-LVHN SELECT Program Faculty, USF-LVHN SELECT Program Students

Document Type


This document is currently not available here.