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Changing faces: nurses as emotional jugglers

Bolton, S.C. (2001) Changing faces: nurses as emotional jugglers. Sociology of Health and Illness, 23 (1). pp. 85-100. ISSN 0141-9889

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Nursing has long been distinguished as an occupation requiring extensive amounts of 'emotion work'. Various studies highlight the importance of a nurse's ability to manage emotion and present the desired demeanour in a number of health care settings. This paper adds to the existing understanding of the emotional elements of nursing work and proposes that Goffman's (1959, 1961, 1967) insights into the 'presentation of self' may be a useful approach to recognising a nurse's ability to present many 'faces'. Set against the backdrop of structural changes affecting the British public sector services, and using qualitative data collected from a group of nurses working in a National Health Service trust hospital, it will be shown how nurses are able to juggle the emotional demands made of them whilst still presenting an acceptable face.