Emotional Intelligence and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit : Journal of Clinical Neonatology

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Emotional Intelligence and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Manzar, Shabih

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Journal of Clinical Neonatology 12(2):p 77-78, Apr–Jun 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/jcn.jcn_12_23

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a very stressful environment for both parents and healthcare workers. High rates of burnout have been reported among NICU nurses and physicians.[1,2] Wellness and coping skills are important to combat burnout.[3] The principles of emotional intelligence (EI) could be utilized in these scenarios. EI is the capacity to understand the emotions of self and others and to develop skills to improve coping with emotional situations and work performance.[4] EI comprises five main domains, represented by the acronym MESSI (motivation, empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation, and interpersonal skills). Figure 1 depicts the interaction of these domains. We present some strategies and applications of EI principles in neonatal ICU. We named it the MESSI model [Figure 1].

Figure 1:
Spheres of emotional intelligence. Acronym: MESSI (motivation, empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation, and interpersonal skills)


Motivation alleviates stress. Wu et al.[5] have shown that motivation through ethical leadership could reduce healthcare burnout. Involving in continuous quality improvement projects is one of the ways to remain motivated in the NICU.


Parents in NICU require empathy. The NICU team could show empathy by listening to the parents patiently and paying attention to their little needs. They need compassion. Crump et al.[6] have shown a relationship between burnout and empathy.


Physicians and nurses working in the NICU must acknowledge the challenges of caring for a sick infant, which requires staying over extended hours. They should get some time off when needed. Burnet et al.[7] have shown that taking time off for breakfast could reduce burnout.


The NICU team is under constant stress. They need to find ways to combat burnout. Miyoshi et al.[8] have shown that yoga and mindfulness positively affect self-compassion. Meditation or religious activity could also help, depending on individual perception and practice.


Developing social skills and interaction is important for healthcare providers. Parents in NICU have many questions. An update on a sick baby is a challenging conversation. In NICU, working with a multidisciplinary team flourishes interpersonal skills. Poor communication between physicians and patients has been associated with burnout.[9]

In summary, we present a MESSI model based on the principles of EI and hope it could help NICU health-care providers combat stress and decrease burnout. Further studies are needed to assess the effect of implementing the MESSI model and its outcomes.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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8. Miyoshi T, Ida H, Nishimura Y, Ako S, Otsuka F. Effects of yoga and mindfulness programs on self-compassion in medical professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic:An intervention study. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2022;19:12523.
9. Yamada C, Kishimoto N, Sakai Y, Kuwahira I, Chino O, Ebihara A, et al. Transitional changes in job stress and psychological adjustment of hospital workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. Tokai J Exp Clin Med 2022;47:115–24.
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