Hunter, Billie and Deery, Ruth (2005) Building our knowledge about emotion work in midwifery: combining and comparing findings from two different research studies. Evidence based midwifery, 3 (1). pp. 10-15. ISSN 1479-4489

Aim. To demonstrate the value of combining and comparing research findings from two UK studies where there was evidence of emotion work in midwifery.

Approach. A critical review of two major studies, one using ethnography and the other action research.

Sample characteristics of studies selected. The ethnography study used a purposive sample of student and qualified midwives (n=56) and the action research study used a case study sample of community midwives (n=8). Data were analysed using variations on thematic analysis.

Findings. Common themes relating to strategies for emotion management were identified. Midwifery was commonly experienced as highly emotional work, but this aspect of work was often unacknowledged and undervalued. Both studies identified relationships with midwifery colleagues and dealing with organisational demands as key sources of emotion work. Emotion management was governed by 'feeling rules' and midwives worked at 'impression management' in order to maintain a professional façade. Differences between the findings of the two studies relate to the midwives' experience of 'doing' emotion work. In one study this was a potentially positive experience for some midwives, in the other, emotion work was an overwhelmingly negative experience for most of the midwives. This divergence is attributed to variations in the context in which the participants worked. Combining and comparing studies adds to the credibility of each research study, drawing together what is known and what needs to be explored further. Implications for practice include the need to focus on common goals rather than differences, and to make use of models of support, such as clinical supervision, to foster the development of 'emotionally intelligent' midwives.

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