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The provision of emotional labour by health care assistants caring for dying cancer patients in the community: a qualitative study into the experiences of health care assistants and bereaved carers

Citation
Lovatt M, Nanton V, Roberts J, Ingleton C, Noble B, Pitt E, Seers K & Munday D (2015) The provision of emotional labour by health care assistants caring for dying cancer patients in the community: a qualitative study into the experiences of health care assistants and bereaved carers, International Journal of Nursing Studies, 52 (1), pp. 271-279.

Abstract
Background 

While previous research has suggested that health care assistants supporting palliative care work in the community regard the provision of emotional labour as a key aspect of their role, little research has explored the experiences of family carers who are the recipients of such support. 
Objective 
To explore the emotional labour undertaken by health care assistants working in community palliative care from the perspectives of both health care assistants and bereaved family carers. 
Design 
We conducted a qualitative interview study in 2011-2012 with bereaved family carers of cancer patients who had received the services of health care assistants in the community, and health care assistants who provided community palliative care services. Transcripts were coded and analysed for emergent themes using a constant comparative technique. 
Settings 
Three different research sites in the United Kingdom, all providing community palliative care. 
Participants and methods 
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 33 bereaved family carers and eight health care assistants. 
Results 
Health care assistants view one of their key roles as providing emotional support to patients and their family carers, and family carers recognise and value this emotional support. Emotional support by health care assistants was demonstrated in three main ways: the relationships which health care assistants developed and maintained on the professional-personal boundary; the ability of health care assistants to negotiate clinical/domestic boundaries in the home; the ways in which health care assistants and family carers worked together to enable the patient to die at home. 
Conclusion t
Trough their emotional labour, health care assistants perform an important role in community palliative care which is greatly valued by family carers. While recent reports have highlighted potential dangers in the ambiguity of their role, any attempts to clarify the ?boundaries? of the health care assistant role should acknowledge the advantages health care assistants can bring in bridging potential gaps between healthcare professionals and family carers.

Keywords
family carers; community care; emotional labour; health care assistants; palliative care; qualitative research

StatusPublished
AuthorsLovatt Melanie, Nanton Veronica, Roberts Julie, Ingleton Christine, Noble Bill, Pitt Elizabeth, Seers Kate, Munday Daniel
Publication date01/2015
Publication date online30/10/2014
Date accepted by journal25/10/2014
PublisherElsevier
ISSN 0020-7489
LanguageEnglish

Journal
International Journal of Nursing Studies: Volume 52, Issue 1 (2015)

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