An Australian investigation of emotional work, emotional well-being and professional practice: an emancipatory inquiry

J Clin Nurs. 2010 May;19(9-10):1405-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2009.02997.x.


Aims and objectives: This study set out to explore the relationship between emotional work, emotional well-being and professional practice of generalist community health nurses who provided palliative care to clients living at home.

Background: Research suggests that palliative care practice is emotionally demanding and at times challenging. Whilst nurses find their palliative practice a source of job satisfaction the associated stresses can impact on nurses emotional well-being.

Design: A qualitative emancipatory methodology informed this study.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews/storytelling and reflective journaling were the two methods applied. Sixteen community health nurses including the researcher participated. Thematic analysis of the data was undertaken.

Results: The concept of emotional well-being is associated with nurses' feelings of being balanced or out of balance. There is a pervasive interconnectedness between emotional work, emotional well-being and professional practice that is influenced by factors such as organisational and workplace issues; communication with health professionals, professional boundaries; education and professional development. Three major interwoven themes emerged highlighting that palliative care provision was demanding and rewarding, yet dependent on the nurse's comfortability within practice. Self-care is also important to the generalist nurses and strategies to enhance well-being include healthy lifestyle choices, debriefing, self-validation, assertiveness and emotional support.

Conclusions: Emotional well-being is complex and multifaceted. The value of emotional well-being to professional practice is important. Palliative care provision is associated with demands, rewards and comfortability. It is essential that attention be given to the experiences of generalist community health nurses who engage in palliative care provision.

Relevance to clinical practice: As the demand for community palliative care increases, the issues that limit and enhance the emotional well-being of generalist palliative care nurses' become critical. The findings have international relevance to generalist and specialist palliative care nurses, academics and researchers alike.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Community Health Nursing*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Palliative Care
  • Workforce