"We are to be like machines... fill the bed before it gets cold": Exploring the emotional geographies of healthcare providers caring for dying residents in long-term care facilities

Date

2021

Authors

Giesbrecht, Melissa
Stajduhar, Kelli I.
Cloutier, Denise
Dujela, Carren

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Social Science & Medicine

Abstract

The end-of-life context is imbued with emotions, with death and dying transforming everyday places, like long-term care facilities, into entirely new emotional topographies that can evoke profound effects on those who live and work within these settings. Despite their significant role, healthcare providers' emotions and their interconnections with ‘place’ have received relatively little attention from researchers, including geographers of care and caregiving. This secondary thematic analysis attempts to address this notable gap by exploring the emotional geographies of healthcare providers caring for dying residents in four long-term care facilities in western Canada. By drawing upon interview and focus group data with administrators (n = 12) and direct care provider (n = 80) participants, findings reveal that experiences of caring for dying residents were often charged with negative emotions (e.g., distress, frustration, grief). These emotions were not only influenced by social and physical aspects of ‘place’, but the temporal process of caring for a dying resident, which included: (1) Identifying a resident as in need of a palliative approach to care; (2) Actively dying; and (3) Following a resident's death. Findings indicate that providers' emotions shifted in scale at each of these temporal phases, ranging from association with the facility as a whole to the micro-scale of the body. Broader structural forces that influence the physical and social place of long-term care facilities were also found to shape experiences of emotional labor among staff. With an increasing number of deaths occurring within long-term care facilities throughout the Global North, such findings contribute critical experiential knowledge that can inform policy and programs on ways to help combat staff burnout, facilitate worker satisfaction, and foster resilience among long-term care providers, ensuring they receive the necessary supports to continue fulfilling this valuable caring role.

Description

Keywords

Long-term care, Residential facilities, Nursing care, Healthcare providers, Emotional geographies, End-of-life care, Canada

Citation

Giesbrecht, M., Stajduhar, K. I., Cloutier, D., Dujela, C. (2021). “We are to be like machines… fill the bed before it gets cold”: Exploring the emotional geographies of healthcare providers caring for dying residents in long-term care facilities. Social Science & Medicine, 272, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.113749.