Mental health nurses’ experiences of managing work-related emotions through supervision

Jessica Maclaren, Rosie Stenhouse, Deborah Ritchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

To explore emotion cultures constructed in supervision and consider how supervision functions as an emotionally safe space promoting critical reflection.
Research published between 1995-2015 suggests supervision has a positive impact on nurses’ emotional wellbeing, but there is little understanding of the processes involved in this, and how styles of emotion interaction are established in supervision.
A narrative approach was used to investigate mental health nurses’ understandings and experiences of supervision.
8 semi-structured interviews were conducted with community mental health nurses in the UK during 2011. Analysis of audio data used features of speech to identify narrative discourse and illuminate meanings. A topic-centred analysis of interview narratives explored discourses shared between the participants. This supported the identification of feeling rules within participants’ narratives, and the exploration of the emotion context of supervision.
Effective supervision was associated with three feeling rules: Safety and reflexivity; Staying professional; Managing feelings. These feeling rules allowed the expression and exploration of emotions, promoting critical reflection. A contrast was identified between the emotion culture of supervision and the nurses’ experience of their workplace cultures as requiring the suppression of difficult emotions. Despite this contrast supervision functioned as an emotion micro-culture with its own distinctive feeling rules.
The analytical construct of feeling rules allows us to connect individual emotional experiences to shared normative discourses, highlighting how these shape emotional processes taking place in supervision. This understanding supports an explanation of how supervision may positively influence nurses’ emotion management and perhaps reduce burnout.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2423–2434
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • nurses
  • mental health
  • supervisors and supervision
  • clinical supervision
  • emotions
  • narratives
  • qualitative studies
  • interviews
  • feeling rules


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