Emotional risk work during the pandemic: Healthcare professionals’ perceptions from a COVID-19 ward

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In March 2020, COVID-19 wards were established in hospitals in Denmark. Healthcare professionals from a variety of specialities and wards were transferred to these new wards to care for patients admitted with severe COVID-19 infections. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a COVID-19 ward at a hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, including focus group interviews with nursing staff, we intended to explore practices in a COVID-19 ward by seeking insight into the relation between the work carried out and the professionals’ ways of talking about it. We used a performative approach of studying how the institutional ways of handling pandemic risk work comes into being and relates to the health professionals’ emerging responses. The empirical analysis pointed at emotional responses by the nursing staff providing COVID-19 care as central. To explore these emotional responses we draw on the work of Mary Douglas and Deborah Lupton’s concept of the ‘emotion-risk-assemblage’. Our analysis provides insight into how emotions are contextually produced and linked to institutional risk understandings. We show that work in the COVID-19 ward was based on an institutional order that was disrupted during the pandemic, producing significant emotions of insecurity. Although these emotions are structurally produced, they are simultaneously internalised as feelings of incompetence and shame.
TidsskriftHealth, Risk & Society
Udgave nummer3-4
Sider (fra-til)110-128
Antal sider19
StatusUdgivet - 2023

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