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Nursing emotion work and interprofessional collaboration in general internal medicine wards: a qualitative study


Aim — This paper is a report of a study to examine nursing emotion work and interprofessional collaboration in order to understand and improve collaborative nursing practice.

Background — Nursing standards identify collaborative practice as necessary for quality patient care yet many nurses are often reluctant to participate in interprofessional teams. Strategies intended to improve participation often fail which suggests that the factors underpinning nurses’ disinclination towards interprofessional collaboration have yet to be understood. The concept of emotion work has not been applied to nursing interprofessionalism, and holds the potential to improve collaborative practice. Nursing emotion work is defined as the management of the emotions of self and others in order to improve patient care.

Methods — Qualitative data were collected in 2006 using non-participant observation, shadowing and semi-structured interviews with nursing, medical and allied professionals in the general internal medicine wards of three hospitals in urban Canada.

Findings — Nurses’ collaborations with other professionals are influenced by emotion work considerations. The establishment and maintenance of a nursing esprit de corps, corridor conflicts with physicians, and the failure of the interdisciplinary team to acknowledge the importance of nursing’s core caring values are important factors underpinning nurses’ interprofessional disengagement.

Conclusion — Longstanding emotion work issues must be addressed before nurses will engage collaboratively. We suggest improving nursing collaboration through the refining of holistic nursing information, and reflections on practice by all interprofessional team members.



Miller KL, Reeves S, Zwarenstein M, Beales JD, Kenaszchuk C, Conn LG. J Adv Nurs. 2008; 64(4):332-43.

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