College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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nursing, birth, emotional labor, occupation


Using a qualitative approach, twenty long-format interviews with registered nurses with experience working in obstetrics (OB RNs) were conducted using a structured, open-ended question guide to investigate occupational culture, the impact of societal forces on work, and the role of emotion in nursing. Audio-recordings of the interviews were analyzed for themes, using grounded theory. Within the culture of OB RNs, the duty of providing safe care was embedded throughout conversations as a duty, a safety imperative. Since OB RNs saw their job in terms of safety foremost, friction arose when others held differing expectations, influenced by medical dominance and the ambiguity of the nursing role. By justifying the emotional labor routinely performed as an important nursing function, the participants did not conceptualize their emotional labor as problematic. Instead, the OB RNs reported deriving meaning from their work, described emotional aspects as fulfilling, and were bothered at the economic description of selling care on the marketplace. The main sources of frustration voiced were lack of respect, a profit-driven system, and an inability to provide the safest care within those restraints. The major implication would be to promote understanding of the substantial work of nursing specifically and care work broadly, to encourage agency and to continue to build a sociology of nursing.