Nursing is an emotionally complex occupation, requiring performance of both emotional labour (for the benefit of the organisation and professional role) and emotional work (for the benefit of the nurse-patient relationship).
According to the Conservation of Resources Theory, such processes can have a significant effect on psychological well-being and occupational stress, although little is known about the factors that moderate their effects.
This exploratory study investigated the relationship between emotional labour and emotional work on psychological wellbeing and occupational stress in 239 nurses sampled from a South Australian hospital. The multi-component questionnaire study focused on the emotional labour elements of emotion expression and suppression, as well as surface acting and deep acting, and examined the companionship, help, and regulation elements of emotional work.
In a multivariate model, emotional work was found to be less strongly predictive of negative psychological outcomes than was emotional labour, but was more strongly predictive of positive outcomes. Social support may moderate or be an antecedent to the performance of emotional labour and emotional work.
The findings support the Conservation of Resources Theory with emotional work, rather than emotional labour, enabling the uptake of resources and leading to positive occupational health and well-being.
- Emotional labour and emotional work distinctly influence nurse health and well-being.
- Emotional work contributed less variance in negative outcomes than emotional labour.
- Emotional work contributed more variance in positive outcomes than emotional labour.
- Emotional work enables the uptake of resources, leading to positive consequences.
- Social support moderated and directly influenced emotional labour and work.