Background Children with life-limiting conditions are living longer, so relationships between nurses and families can span decades (Maunder 2013)2. Although long-term relationships between nurses and children/families in paediatric palliative care have been researched, studies undertaken exclusively in children’s hospices (CH) are rare.
Aims Develop an understanding of how CH nurses maintain professional integrity whilst providing long-term practical, emotional, social and spiritual care to parents. Explore coping strategies used by CH nurses to manage emotional labour.
Methods Participants were a purposive sample of six registered children’s nurses, employed at CH for minimum of 4 years. Participants told the story of a shift, focusing on interactions with parents. Data collected (January 2019-January 2020) via audio diaries recorded on mobile phones and further explored in telephone interviews. Audio diaries securely transmitted via ‘Whatsapp’ (university and hospice ethics approval granted).
Results Thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006)1 was used to identify that participants used a range of strategies/approaches to manage their relationship with parents; in terms of their emotions (Purposeful positioning) and interactions (Balancing personability and professionalism). In addition, participants revealed other CH specific factors which helped them cope with their role (Coping with and counterbalancing emotional labour).
Discussion Findings were indicative of CH nurses’ using and building Emotional Intelligence (EI). Established EI theory was combined with findings to develop: ENRiCHn (Using EI to Navigate Relationships in Children’s Hospices: a framework for nurses). Although CH specific, aspects of the framework could be adapted for other areas of nursing practice where long-term nurse-parent/client relationships exist.
Conclusions The findings provided an insight into how experienced CH nurses used emotional intelligence to engage emotionally with parents whilst simultaneously managing the level of involvement and maintaining a sense of separation. Features of hospice work which positively contributed to counterbalancing the emotional demands of the role were also highlighted.
Braun V, Clarke V. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 2006;3(2):77–101.
Maunder E. 2013. Exploration of the emotion management of children’s nurses providing palliative care for children/young people living with life-limiting conditions and their families. Swansea University. Available at: http://www.wspcr.ac.uk/phd-studies-maunder.php [Accessed: 7 February 2022].
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