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Can Fam Physician. 2009 April; 55(4): 351–352.
PMCID: PMC2668999

Building emotional intelligence

Shaheen E. Lakhan, MEd PhD AFACB MD, Executive Director and Medical Scientist

I recently read the Commentary “Because one shoe doesn’t fit all.”1 It is important to continually improve physician-patient relationships to best suit the needs of primary care and provide medical and emotional support to our patients. I was intrigued by the graphic representation of possible transformations in the doctor-patient relationship, which will certainly prove useful in medical training. I have seen physicians treat patients differently based on the difficulty of the cases. It would only be prudent to treat each patient in the same way on an emotional level, whether the problem is acute or chronic.

In cases that are purely medical, it seems likely that physicians might forget to incorporate patients’ emotions into assessment and treatment, and might not acknowledge their own emotional reactions to situations. I recently came across a study that examined emotional intelligence in physicians and how it affected patients’ trust in the patient-physician relationship.2 I hope that the awareness your article suggests1 will include emotional intelligence training for physicians so they might understand how patients’ personal and emotional contexts affect physicians’ treatment capabilities.

Last, I wanted to bring to your attention a study from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in which the authors demonstrated that sleep deprivation had minimal effect on the ability to incorporate emotion and cognition to guide moral judgment in individuals with higher emotional intelligence.3 Increasing the emotional intelligence of our physicians might help to avoid the negative effects of stress.


1. Lussier MT, Richard C. Because one shoe doesn’t fit all. Can Fam Physician. 2008;54:1089–92 (Eng). 1096–9 (Fr). [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Weng HC. Does the physician’s emotional intelligence matter? Impacts of the physician’s emotional intelligence on the trust, patient-physician relationship, and satisfaction. Health Care Manage Rev. 2008;33(4):280–8. [PubMed]
3. Killgore WD, Killgore DB, Day LM, Li C, Kamimori GH, Balkin TJ. The effects of 53 hours of sleep deprivation on moral judgment. Sleep. 2007;30(3):345–52. [PubMed]

Articles from Canadian Family Physician are provided here courtesy of College of Family Physicians of Canada