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Hum Reprod. 2013 May;28(5):1289-96. doi: 10.1093/humrep/det051. Epub 2013 Mar 18.

When biological scientists become health-care workers: emotional labour in embryology.

Author information

  • 1Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Te Tari Mātai Tikanga Tangata o Nāianei me Onamata, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand. ruth.fitzgerald@otago.ac.nz

Abstract

STUDY QUESTION:

Can biological scientists working in medically assisted reproduction (MAR) have a role as health-care workers and, if so, how do they engage in the emotional labour commonly associated with health-care work?

SUMMARY ANSWER:

The scientists at Fertility Associates (FA) in New Zealand perform the technical and emotional cares associated with health-care work in an occupationally specific manner, which we refer to as a hybrid care style. Their emotional labour consists of managing difficult patients, 'talking up' bad news, finding strategies to sustain hope and meaning, and 'clicking' or 'not clicking' with individual patients.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY:

Effective emotional labour is a key component of patient-centred care and is as important to the experience of high-quality MAR as excellent clinical and scientific technique.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION:

This is a qualitative study based on open-ended interviews and ethnographic observations with 14 staff in 2 laboratories conducted over 2 separate periods of 3 weeks duration in 2007. Analysis of fieldnotes and interviews was conducted using thematic analysis and an NVivo qualitative database and compared for consistency across each interviewer.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS:

The participants were consenting biological scientists working in one of the two laboratories. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 'quiet' work times, and supervised access was allowed to all parts of the laboratories and meeting places. Opportunities for participant review of results and cross comparison of independent analysis by authors increases the faithfulness of fit of this account to laboratory life.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE:

The study suggests that emotional labour is a part of routinized scientific labour in MAR laboratories for FA.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION:

This is a qualitative study and thus the findings are not generalizable to populations beyond the study participants.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS:

While little has been published of the emotional component of scientist's working lives, there may be a New Zealand style of doing scientific work in MAR laboratories which is patient centred and which incorporates much higher patient contact and involvement than is experienced in other laboratories.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S):

This study was funded by a research grant from the University of Otago and was also partly funded by a Marsden Grant administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER:

N/A.

PMID:
23508251
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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