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Emotional intelligence in military medical officers in the Defence Medical Services
  1. Dougal MacEwan1 and
  2. A Gibson2
  1. 1 South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Middlesbrough, UK
  2. 2 James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Dougal MacEwan, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Middlesbrough TS4 3BW, UK; dougal.macewan{at}


Background Emotional intelligence (EI) is a concept describing an individual’s ability to understand, process and act accordingly on others’ and one’s own emotions. It is a desirable quality for people working in teams and is beneficial to the individual in many ways. It is increasingly recognised that understanding and developing EI are important to working in the healthcare environment. It becomes especially pertinent in the deployed Defence Medical Services (DMS), where clinicians often fulfil a significant leadership role in a small team.

Methods This study was performed with the aim of exploring the role of EI in military doctors in the UK DMS. EI was measured in a cohort of 64 military doctors by way of a validated self-assessment questionnaire. Results were tested for differences in EI between different services and career stages.

Results The survey had an 83% return rate. There was roughly equal distribution between service, career groups and ages across the study population. There were more men than women. The population showed consistently high EI scores compared with control data. There were no statistical differences in EI scores between services or genders. Foundation doctors showed the highest EI scores and consultants the lowest (6.05 vs 5.3).

Conclusion It was demonstrated that military doctors have consistently high EI score, especially at the most junior level. This suggests that traits deemed desirable by the single service selection processes also pertain to high EI without it being specifically measured for. The dangers of having too high EI and the benefits of having a range of EI within a team were discussed. There were limitations of being unable to obtain qualitative data and not including primary healthcare staff. Several recommendations were set out as to how the DMS may use or further investigate EI with regard to training and recruitment.

  • EDUCATION & TRAINING (see Medical Education & Training)
  • Organisational development
  • Human resource management

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors AG devised the project and was responsible for data collection. AG and DM took part in data analysis and interpretation. DM drafted and revised the final manuscript. AG and DM have final approval of the version to be published. AG acts as overall guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.