• caring;
  • emotional labour;
  • nursing skills;
  • caring skills;
  • private/public emotion work;
  • phenomenology;
  • feminist interviewing;
  • gender and emotion

This study attempts to recognize and value emotional labour and the skills involved and embodied within it. Also, there is an attempt to deliberately re-value the caring component of nursing. Caring is identified as the central task of the nurse, emotional labour is part of caring and therefore a defence of emotional labour is central to affirming nursing’s worth. The study draws on the work of Hochschild who first used the term emotional labour to define the undefined, unexplained component of the work mainly carried out by women. Such caring work also is not officially recorded and may only be passed on in an oral tradition. Case studies of three experienced enrolled nurses (level 2) who were on a course to convert their nursing qualification to registered nurse (level 1) were compiled. Phenomenology as an inductive, descriptive research method was used to investigate and describe their experiences as emotion managers at home and emotion workers in clinical hospital settings. From the case studies, it was concluded that all three women recognize emotion work as work but also that this type of work is not recorded. They also were not able to name skills used for such work and generally believe that it is through life experience that they have learnt emotion management. I used the information from my conversations with the women to name skills, indeed the title of the study is one such skill. All three women demonstrated a positive self-evaluation of their work although they felt that society did not value care work. I use some of their comments, the literature and my own thoughts to discuss ways of improving and valuing the emotional labour of nursing.