Aim To investigate the relationship between psychological attachment style and emotional responses to moving into a purpose built hospice.
Background Mental representations of self and other are formed by our primary relationship. Internal working models inform subsequent relationships, world view and responses to life events. Attachment style research demonstrates predictive value for staff responses in clinical environments. In 2013 our hospice service relocated to a bespoke new build. Practical issues were addressed by project management, but psychological and emotional aspects were unexplored.
Methodology After favourable University ethics review the study took place in an English, 17 bedded consultant-led hospice with daycare, and community services. All staff and visiting volunteers were eligible for the study. A modified adult attachment questionnaire with added elements was circulated prior to moving. Gender was not collected to ensure confidentiality.
Results 42 questionnaires (31%) were returned: 34 staff, 8 volunteers. Statistical analysis revealed no difference between staff and volunteers so they are reported together. The median length of service at the old Hospice was 6.2 years; range <1 to 23 years service. Older staff had worked for the hospice for longer (p < 0.05).
Anxious and avoidant attachment styles were not related to length of service in the hospice. Staff with anxious attachment styles grieved more (p < 0.003) and felt it was wrong to sell the old hospice (p < 0.05). Both anxious and avoidant staff with higher scores were less likely to want to move (p < 0.05).
Conclusions and Applications to Hospice practice Our data suggest that attachment style is stable despite the stress of working in a hospice environment. As in other workplaces anxiously attached personnel have predictably more negative emotional responses to life events. This is useful information for staff care and suggests some groups of staff may benefit from targeted clinical supervision during periods of great change.
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