Bearing witness to the challenges of breathlessness
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Lucy Speakman, Dan Butcher, Sue Schutz. Bearing witness to the challenges of breathlessness. British Journal of Community Nursing Vol. 26, No. 4
The community respiratory nurse specialist (CRNS) supports patients at different stages of lung disease, witnessing the challenge of living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive illness for which there is no cure. Breathlessness is the most prominent and debilitating symptom experienced; it is frightening, distressing and very difficult to manage. Little is known about the experience of CRNSs in witnessing the distress of patients, specifically those experiencing breathlessness. The nurse may have cared for such patients over many months or years. In witnessing this distress, CRNSs engage in emotional labour, which is associated with burnout and poor-quality care. This paper seeks to identify bearing witness to suffering and vulnerability as components of emotional labour in the context of the CRNS role. It highlights the need for research to explore the experience of CRNSs and insights into supporting people with long-term breathlessness. It is more likely that well-supported staff can provide sustained, supportive care to patients living with breathlessness.
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