Feelings are actively induced as the actor “psyches” him/herself into the desired persona. Emotional labor is thought by many to be an important part of the role of many health care professionals and it has been the focus of much debate and empirical enquiry within a range of health care settings, especially within nursing. However, the research to date is limited in a number of important ways. First, as mentioned, much of the existing focus is limited to the nursing profession, despite the recognition that emotional labor is likely to be an important feature of other health-care settings. Second, a theoretical model driving the research direction seems to be lacking, resulting in a range of varied and interesting studies that are difficult to relate into a coherent whole.

The aim of this paper is to evaluate the extensive literature on emotional labor within health-care settings in order to develop a health care model of emotional labor. This model should be able to drive future research enquiry (including that examining professions other than nursing) as well as highlighting those parts of the process into which health-care management interventions might best be placed. The current paper will begin with an evaluation of the literature on emotional labor, particularly within the health-care sector, before the new model is proposed. Implications of the model for research and practice will be outlined.

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