What lies beneath? Experiencing emotions and caring in oncology.

Research paper by Wk Tim WT Wong, Alex A Broom, Emma E Kirby, Zarnie Z Lwin

Indexed on: 25 Sep '18Published on: 25 Sep '18Published in: Health (London, England : 1997)


Medical encounters - while often viewed as centred on conveying clinical knowledge - are also sites of emotion and for exerting emotional labour by healthcare professionals. The temptation to view these encounters as largely 'technical' - an exchange of knowledge or information - can marginalise the complex emotions often experienced by healthcare professionals, and negates the critical work done in these encounters. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 22 Australian medical oncologists, this article explores the experience and meaning of (their) emotions in medical encounters, and the manner in which emotional labour is performed by medical oncologists. Emotions, as it emerges, are central to the 'management' of encounters, ensuring professional sustainability and in 'achieving' clinical outcomes. Here, we broaden understandings of emotionality in oncological work, focusing on emotions as central to the production and enactment of professionalism, relationships and identities across professional careers. We illustrate how the performance of emotional labour reflects a dialectic between notions of 'professionalism' and 'feelings' - which in practice are co-existing and intermingling dimensions of oncology relations - manifested in the practice of 'bounded caring'.