"We just take care after each other" Relational health strategies of nurses and nursing aides working in residential long-term-care as a mechanism of in and exclusion in care teams

Saskia Elise Duijs, Martine van Wees, Tineke Abma, Zohra Bourik, Olivia Plak, Yvonne Jaspers, Usha Jhingoeri, Naziha Senoussi, Petra Verdonk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: The health of care workers in residential long-term care (LTC) is under pressure. Scholars emphasize the importance of gender-sensitive and intersectional approaches to occupational health.

OBJECTIVE: To unravel how the health of nurses and nursing aides is shaped by gender, class, age, sexuality and race.

METHODS: A qualitative participatory study. A participatory research team, consisting of academic scholars and nursing aides, conducted semi-structures interviews (N = 20) and one natural group discussion (N = 8 participants) to validate our findings. Thematic data-analysis was guided by gender and intersectionality theory.

RESULTS: Empirical findings suggest that gendered norms limit possibilities for self-care for female nurses and nursing aides. Feeling uncared for by society and LTC organizations, paid care workers describe how they take care of each other. These relational health strategies require a feeling of sameness, limiting space for diversity and disability within care teams. Care workers seen as 'cultural other', or those who experienced (chronic) health issues, financial struggles or informal caregiving, risked being excluded from relational care within care teams, which negatively impacted their health.

CONCLUSIONS: Care workers' relational health strategies are a gendered and care ethical response to the lack of societal and political care for LTC, but can become mechanisms of exclusion within care teams. This can be understood as a sign of exhaustion, shaped by adverse working conditions and leading to moral stress. The lack of societal appreciation needs to be addressed by occupational health physicians and LTC organizations, to counter mechanisms of exclusion among paid care workers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWork (Reading, Mass.)
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Feb 2024

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