April 23, 2013 -- IQ directly relates to how students perform on tests in the first two years of dental school, but emotional intelligence (EI) trumps IQ in how well dental students work with patients, according to researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and Weatherhead School of Management (Journal of Dental Education, April 1, 2013, Vol. 77:4, pp. 416-426).
Emotional intelligence influences how well dental students recognize and manage their emotions and professional relationships, explained co-authors Kristin Victoroff, DDS, PhD, and Richard Boyatzis, PhD, in a university news release. EI differs from IQ, which measures the ability to think and perform on tests. EI, also a form of intelligence, is the ability to read one's own moods and those of others, remain calm under pressure, and be optimistic and adaptable to change.
This is the first test of this relationship in dentistry, according to Boyatzis.
The researchers recruited third- and fourth-year dental students, who receive clinical training under the guidance of two preceptors that assess clinical performance; 100 out of 136 students from the two classes participated. Students themselves plus other individuals they work with were asked to complete a 72-item questionnaire from the Emotional Competence Inventory-University. EI competencies are grouped in four areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Overall clinical performance was determined by averaging the preceptors' assessments of a student's overall clinical performance over several rating periods.
In determining a student's overall clinical performance, preceptors consider such factors as diagnosis and treatment planning skills, work ethic and time utilization, preparation and organization, professionalism, patient management, knowledge and technical skills, and ability to self-assess one's work.
The analysis looked at the clinical grade and the EI assessment to see if there was a correlation between high EI scores and high clinical performance. The researchers ruled out the student's year in school and gender in the analysis after finding those factors made no significant differences.
They found that a high EI related to excellent clinical performance and that EI skills in self-management were significant predictors of clinical grades. Self-management skills involve self-control, achievement orientation, initiative, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, and optimism.
EI scores for relationship management, which relates to the ability to influence others, were harder to determine due to the transient nature between the student dentist and patient during the two-year clinical training, the study authors noted.
They recommended future studies extend EI assessments to practicing dentists to determine EI's impact in the professional setting.