“I Can Never Be Too Comfortable”: Race, Gender, and Emotion at the Hospital Bedside
In this article, we examine how race and gender shape nurses’ emotion practice. Based on audio diaries collected from 48 nurses within two Midwestern hospital systems in the United States, we illustrate the disproportionate emotional labor that emerges among women nurses of color in the white institutional space of American health care. In this environment, women of color experience an emotional double shift as a result of negotiating patient, coworker, and supervisor interactions. In confronting racist encounters, nurses of color in our sample experience additional job-related stress, must perform disproportionate amounts of emotional labor, and experience depleted emotional resources that negatively influence patient care. Methodologically, the study extends prior research by using audio diaries collected from a racially diverse sample to capture emotion as a situationally emergent and complex feature of nursing practice. We also extend research on nursing by tracing both the sources and consequences of unequal emotion practices for nurse well-being and patient care.