Managing service user emotions: The healthcare assistant-patient relationship in secondary healthcare

Heron, Paul, Kessler, Ian and Dopson, Sue (2010) Managing service user emotions: The healthcare assistant-patient relationship in secondary healthcare. In: Work, Employment & Society Conference, 7-9 September 2010, Brighton University.

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Debates on emotion at work have long acknowledged an interest in both the management of the workers’ emotions and those of the customer with whom the worker interacts. The weight of interest has, however, more consistently fallen on the former. Hochschild’s conception of the alienating nature of emotional labour encouraged a research stream on its negative psychological consequences for the worker, while an influential line of work was stimulated by Bolton’s identification of different normative regimes regulating employee emotion management. This paper seeks to redress the balance, exploring the part played by a workplace role, the healthcare assistant (HCA), in managing the emotions of service users, in this case hospital patients. It argues that the HCA role might be seen to have contradictory effects on the management of patient emotions. The role might be seen as being particularly effective in providing emotional support for patients: the tacit skills of post holders being useful in this respect. However, as a largely unregulated role, it might equally be seen to generate patient anxiety and stress. Drawing on interview, survey, focus group and observational data from four hospitals, this paper explores these outcomes from the perspective of three stakeholders: the HCA, the patient and the nurse. These data suggest that HCAs bring to healthcare distinctive capabilities which support the management of patient emotions. However, a residual degree of ambiguity amongst certain stakeholders remains about the HCA contribution in these terms, with some suggestion that any ‘positive’ input is contingent upon certain management practices.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: Management; Healthcare; Emotion
Subject(s): Organisational behaviour
Centre: Faculty of Organisational Behaviour
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2012 20:07
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 14:06

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