How do You Feel Doctor? An Analysis of Emotional Aspects of Routine Professional Medical Work

  • Nettleton S
  • Burrows R
  • Watt I
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Abstract

Although there has long been a fascination with the emotional responses of doctors to their everyday working lives within the popular media, this has not generally been matched by a parallel analytic interest within medical sociology. Indeed, in a recent paper published in this journal Graham (2006) has argued that the discipline lacks much in the way of a compassionate appreciation of the lives of doctors. This paper explicitly responds to this observation by offering an analysis of the emotional aspects of routine professional medical work. This analysis is based upon qualitative interviews with 52 doctors working in the UK National Health Service (NHS) in England. The paper aims to provide an empathetic understanding of their views on, and responses to, their professional working lives. We are interested in how they `feel' about being a doctor. The feelings they articulate are riven with ambivalence. We suggest that this is generated by a contextual tension which presumes that the medical profession are required to reproduce medicine as an abstract system - an objective, trustworthy, reliable, effective, competent and fair mode of healing - and yet individual practitioners are also required to be caring, emotionally intelligent, intuitive, and sensitive.Social Theory & Health (2008) 6, 18-36. doi:10.1057/palgrave.sth.8700112

Author-supplied keywords

  • Ambivalence
  • Doctors
  • Emotions
  • Feelings
  • Qualitative
  • UK NHS

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Authors

  • Sarah Nettleton

  • Roger Burrows

  • Ian Watt

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