August 3, 2008
Reply to Lisa Kennedy Sheldon Letter to the Editor on: "Why Emotions Matter: Age, Agitation, and Burnout Among Registered Nurses," by author Rebecca Erickson
I very much appreciate Lisa Kennedy Sheldon’s thoughts in response to our article on “Why Emotions Matter.” Given that our study focused on one particular organization, it is good to know that our ideas ring true for others. I found it quite interesting that Dr. Sheldon raised the importance of nurses being able to interact “authentically” with their patients. I wholeheartedly agree. Although it was not a facet of the current article, our project suggests that the experience of inauthenticity may be even more problematic for the well-being of nurses than the more commonly assessed experience of job burnout.
It is also encouraging that Dr. Sheldon notes that older nurses have developed a broad range of skills that enable them to maintain different levels of emotional engagement while also maintaining their personal integrity and the ability to meet the responsibilities of their other roles. This suggests that far from being something “innate,” the ability to successfully perform emotion management over time is a skill that, once fully acknowledged, could be shared with others who may not yet have developed such abilities. Dr. Sheldon also raises the important point that the pairing of experienced nurse mentors with newer nurses – particularly if that mentorship encourages nurses to share a broad range of feelings with one another in a safe, supportive relationship – may not only be directly beneficial to the novices, but may also serve to “reawaken” for the mentors a new means of finding joy and empathy in their work.
Thank you so much for your reflections.
Rebecca J. Erickson
Professor of Sociology