Many questions linger about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects on students, the workforce, the economy, and the mental and physical repercussions that are still coming to light. When classes were forced to go virtual, students missed out on face-to-face connections with peers as well as professors and patients. While the situation had its drawbacks, including increased stress and isolation, in many instances faculty quickly adapted to develop creative solutions and students demonstrated compassion as everyone endured struggles together. Several Midwestern University College of Pharmacy professors wanted to investigate the role the pandemic played in changes to students’ emotional intelligence. Using responses from an Emotional Intelligence Appraisal (EIA) self-assessment to determine changes from August 2019 to July 2020, the professors published their findings, “Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Emotional Intelligence of Student Pharmacist Leaders,” in the January 2022 issue of the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education.
Two of the paper’s authors, Dr. Kellie Goodlet, assistant professor, pharmacy practice, and Dr. Erin Raney, professor, pharmacy practice, noted that prior to the pandemic, progression through the college’s Leadership Development Program was associated with increased EIA scores. Regarding the outcomes they expected to see, “One hypothesis was that we would see more variability in the change from initial to final EIA scores, whereby some students would see significant increases while others would see decreases due to increased isolation and stress caused by the uncertainty of the pandemic,” Goodlet said. “But we saw greater increases in EIA scores pretty much across the board, and most significantly for the emotional intelligence skill of relationship management, which involves using awareness of personal emotions and the emotions of others to communicate effectively.”
Increased emotional intelligence, she continued, “has been associated with improved communication, conflict management, resiliency and job satisfaction, which we believe to be important skills for healthcare professionals. The emotional intelligence skill of relationship management, which increased the most for the pandemic cohort, is also associated with the ability to feel empathy toward others and taking the time to really understand where another person is coming from. We believe this supports the potential for this cohort to have more effective interactions with patients and their fellow clinicians.”