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How emotional intelligence can help healthcare professionals cope with the pandemic

Podcast - August 4, 2020

Professional Development

Performance Management

Leadership Development

Andy Stonehouse MA

Since its inception, COVID-19 has been a great global equalizer. Everyone from frontline workers to high-level management has experienced similar stresses as they confront unknowns regarding personal health, business stability and even job security. 

Amy Lafko, founder of Cairn Consulting Solutions, is an expert in emotional intelligence – the study of the motivations behind and control over emotions. As she wrote in a recent MGMA insights article: “Those with high EQ have better job performance and leadership skills. Thus, understanding EQ helps understanding why it is integral in today’s work environment.”

Emotions, Lafko said in a recent episode of the MGMA Insights podcast, are at heightened levels due to the pandemic. 

“We’ve got stressors that we’ve never had before,” she said. “For some of us, that means that our trigger point might come quicker. When I teach about emotional intelligence, we talk about, ‘How clear is your glass? How clear is your vision?’ And we’re all starting with a cloudy glass compared to what we were in ‘normal’ times.”

Taking a toll

Lafko said the economic and health questions raised by the pandemic have truly taken a toll on healthcare managers, who have struggled to balance the needs of their practices, their employees and their personal lives during such constantly changing times. 

“I think one of the biggest challenges right now is how do you stay people-first and focused on your team as you make decisions about furloughs and layoffs?” she said. “This is a chance for people to reset expectations, realign people and get them excited again about the mission and the vision – and really build that teamwork and collaboration as we come back to the practice.”


Part of the secret, Lafko said, is to establish an emotional buffer zone, which gives employees the freedom to recognize emotional cues and stressors.  

“Think about the ways in which your work has changed,” she wrote in her article. “You are so focused on getting through the day that you aren’t taking the time to identify the specific triggers you are experiencing (self-awareness). If you are working from home, you likely are seeing your colleagues less. If you are an essential worker, you might be busier than normal, which prevents typical socializing.” 

The psychological impact of quarantining and intense work schedules have created a tangible disconnect Lafko said everyone needs to confront.

“With that decreased interaction, you potentially are less aware of what your colleagues are experiencing (social awareness),” she continued in her article. “If we are less aware of our triggers and less aware of what we are experiencing or why we are experiencing it, it’s more difficult to successfully regulate ourselves and others. 

“EQ isn’t about preventing emotions; it’s about learning how to regulate them so that we can get back to the work at hand more quickly,” Lafko said on the podcast.

Additional resources:


Click here to access the free EQ e-book Lafko referenced in this episode. The first five listeners to take advantage of this special offer will receive the chance to take an EQ assessment and go over the results with Lafko herself.

If you like the show, please rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher or countless other platforms to make sure you never miss an episode. If you have topics you'd like us to cover or experts you'd like us to interview, email us at, or reach out to MGMA Sr. Editor and MGMA Insights podcast host Daniel Williams on Twitter at @MGMADaniel

MGMA Insights is presented by Decklan McGee, Rob Ketcham and Daniel Williams.

Thanks to Audi for sponsoring this episode. 
  • Click here to learn more about the MGMA Audi Incentive Program.

About the Author

Andy Stonehouse MA
Freelance Writer and Educator Colorado

Andy Stonehouse, MA, is a Colorado-based freelance writer and educator. His professional credits include serving as editor of Employee Benefit News and a variety of financial and insurance publications, in addition to work in the recreation and transportation fields.


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