Dr Eryl Maunder, Swansea University
PhD study title
Exploration of the emotion management of children’s nurses providing palliative care for children/young people living with life-limiting conditions and their families.
This study adopted a qualitative ethnographic approach in order to explore the emotion management of children’s nurses providing palliative care for children/young people living with life-limiting conditions and their families. The nurses worked within children’s hospices or community children’s nursing services across Wales. Palliative care has been defined as physical, psychological, emotional and social care for children/young people living with conditions that are no longer curable and with an expectation of dying young (WAG 2008a, p.8).
Data were generated between May 2008 and December 2010, using three research methods:
- Non-participant observation followed by unstructured interviews
- Nurses being invited to send personal contributions they believed captured the emotion management of their role, followed by unstructured interviews in order to provide opportunity to explain their contribution in depth
- Focus groups in order to test interpretations.
Thirty-two nurses participated in the study with fifteen taking part in more than one stage.
The study draws on the work of Hochschild (1983), Seamon (1979), Smith (2012) and Bolton (2005), and identifies that the nurses’ requirement to work within homely environments was a major influence on their emotional labour. For the purpose of this study, ‘homely environments’ are defined as domestic places enabling those who live there to feel comfortable, relaxed and have a sense of control over their ‘home’ space (Exley & Allen 2007). The findings indicate that the nurses adopted informal ‘non-traditional-professional nursing personas in order to portray ‘homeliness-in-care’. At the children’s hospices, the nurses did so in order to maintain the feeling of ‘home-from-home’ for the children, young people and their families. The community children’s nurses made efforts to appear that they felt ‘at home-in-home’ within the family homes of those they cared for, in order to encourage the children, young people and their families to feel relaxed and at-ease when the nurses visited their homes. The nurses’ emotion management was influenced by their requirement to portray or maintain homely care settings, their need to form long-term relationships with the children, young people and their families, and their experience of professional grief.
This study provides evidence that the nurses in children’s hospices and community settings routinely performed emotion work, over and above their required emotional labour, and that the nurses’ emotional labour in portraying homeliness-in–care is underestimated at senior level regarding its importance to the success of the palliative care services.