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J Adv Nurs. 1998 Aug;28(2):332-8.

The place of metaphor and language in exploring nurses' emotional work.

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  • 1Centre for Cancer and Palliative Care Studies, Institute of Cancer Research, Royal Marsden Hospital, London, England.


An understanding of the importance of language as a symbolic artefact, particularly with reference to metaphor, has been little addressed within the nursing literature. Consequently, the potential richness of people's accounts may be missed. Data from a study which explored the nature of hospice work and nurses' experiences of professional and personal bereavements are used to illustrate the different understanding which an exploration of metaphor can bring to research. Meanings of metaphor and its role in language are initially presented before drawing on data concerned with the emotional aspects of hospice work. Root metaphors of emotion are identified and examples from nurses' accounts indicate how nurses draw on these metaphors to articulate their experiences. The strategies nurses employ to continue working within the hospice culture are identified both practically in their work and metaphorically in the language they use.

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