“We should be able to bear our patients in our teaching in some way”: Theoretical perspectives on how nurse teachers manage their emotions to negotiate the split between education and caring practice

Pam Smith, T. Helen Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In a classic paper, Menzies (1960) argued that nurses distanced themselves from patients in order to avoid direct engagement with them and as a means of managing their anxiety. Reflecting on the work 40 years later Fabricius argued that in the move from hospital-based nurse education to universities, nurse educators had further entrenched this defence. It is from both these perspectives that we locate this paper to explore the position of nurse teachers today drawing on empirical data from a study set up to investigate who currently leads student nurse learning in the clinical areas and as a follow up to original research on the emotional labour of nursing (Smith, 1992). This paper presents findings from interviews with nurse teachers which are complemented by student nurse responses to a ward learning environment questionnaire, interviews with ward based nurses and documentary analysis.

A major theme to emerge from the study was that there has been an uncoupling of education and practice as a consequence of the changes taking place in nurse education over the last two decades. This paper describes the range of emotions expressed as a consequence of this uncoupling such as increasing feelings of uncertainty over the nurse teacher’s role in clinical practice and anxiety generated from working in a university system which appeared to devalue caring. The apparent impact of these feelings on nurse teachers was to reinforce the education/practice split and the projection of their anxiety onto students and practitioners. We suggest that nurse teachers and in particular the system in which they work need to recognise both split and projection so that they are able to bear their anxiety and manage it in their teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-223
Number of pages6
JournalNurse Education Today
Volume30
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010

Keywords

  • Emotions
  • Psycho-analysis
  • Nurse teachers
  • Education and caring practice

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