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No backstage: the relentless emotional management of acute nursing through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant, Aileen; Torrance, Nicola; O'Brien, Rosaleen; Douglas, Flora; Baldie, Debbie; Kennedy, Catriona

Authors

Rosaleen O'Brien

Debbie Baldie



Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic disordered the routine delivery of health care. We explored nurses' experiences of working in COVID and non-COVID facing roles, focusing on staff in the acute sector of one Scottish health board. The study covered the period between April and July 2021, and was conducted through twenty in-depth interviews. Interactions between patients, family members and nurses changed due to inflection control measures. Staff experienced a range of conflicting emotions, e.g. fear of infection and transmission but a strong sense professional duty to contribute to the pandemic effort. Nurses were dissatisfied with the care they provided and experienced moral dilemmas, distress and injury from the emotional labour caused not only by working under the infection control measures, but also by the virulence and uncertainty of this new disease. We draw on earlier works - Goffman's (1967) presentation of self, Hochschild's (1983) work on emotional labour, and Bolton and Boyd's (2003) work furthering emotional labour - to illustrate that the usual rules and routines of interaction between patients, family and staff were abandoned. Nurses were able to mask their distress and injury, but were often unable to effectively deliver the correct emotional response due to infection control measures, such as protective clothing (PPE) and social distancing. The 'backstage' spaces, important for dealing with the emotion of front stage performances, were missing for those in COVID-facing roles. The isolating work, and the removal of spaces for the donning and doffing of PPE, resulted in limited or no opportunity for humour and the enacting of collective care. Their private space offered little reprieve with the constant media attention on infection levels, death and nursing 'heroes'.

Citation

GRANT, A., TORRANCE, N., O'BRIEN, R., DOUGLAS, F., BALDIE, D. and KENNEDY, C. 2022. No backstage: the relentless emotional management of acute nursing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Presented at the 2022 Annual conference of the British Sociological Association Medical Sociology Study Group (BSA MedSoc 2022), 14-16 September 2022, Lancaster, UK.

Presentation Conference Type Lecture
Conference Name 2022 Annual conference of the British Sociological Association Medical Sociology Study Group (BSA MedSoc 2022)
Conference Location Lancaster, UK
Start Date Sep 14, 2022
End Date Sep 16, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 29, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 29, 2022
Keywords Nursing; Nurses; COVID-19; Stress; Distress
Public URL https://rgu-repository.worktribe.com/output/1764426

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