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The unspoken work of general practitioner receptionists: A re-examination of emotion management in primary care


  • Ward, Jenna
  • McMurray, Robert


Dealing with illness, recovery and death require health care workers to manage not only their own emotions, but also the emotions of those around them. While there is evidence to suggest that core occupations such as nursing are well versed in the nature of and need for such work, little is known about the requirements for emotion management on the part of front-line administrative staff. In response, findings from a three-year ethnographic study of UK general practice, suggest that as a first-point-of-contact in the English health care system GP receptionists are called upon to perform complex forms of emotion management pursuant to facilitating efficacious care. Two new emotion management techniques are identified: (1) emotional neutrality, and (2) emotion switching, indicating a need to extend emotion management research beyond core health occupations, while at the same time reconsidering the variety and complexity of the techniques used by ancillary workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Ward, Jenna & McMurray, Robert, 2011. "The unspoken work of general practitioner receptionists: A re-examination of emotion management in primary care," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(10), pages 1583-1587, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:10:p:1583-1587

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Arber, Sara & Sawyer, Lucianne, 1985. "The role of the receptionist in general practice: A 'dragon behind the desk'?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 20(9), pages 911-921, January.
    2. Sharon C. Bolton & Maeve Houlihan, 2005. "The (mis)representation of customer service," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 19(4), pages 685-703, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Neuwelt, Pat M. & Kearns, Robin A. & Browne, Annette J., 2015. "The place of receptionists in access to primary care: Challenges in the space between community and consultation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 287-295.


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