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Abstract

Emotional labour is associated with human service work as workers have to express different emotions than those felt or suppress felt emotion. Human service work such as social care is also associated with stress and burnout due to being exposed to the distress of clients. This study explored social care workers’ experiences of emotional labour and professional burnout in domestic violence refuges. The perspectives of workers were examined in relation to the emotional demands and challenges placed on them in their work supporting women and children living in these refuges. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four female social care workers. Eligibility criteria were having a minimum of a Level 7 degree in social care and a minimum of one year’s experience of working in a refuge in Ireland. The main findings identified that emotional labour was a key feature in the work. However professional burnout was not found to be an experience of participants due to perceived organisational commitment. Self-awareness and reflection were both found to be intrinsically related to the work that social care workers do in domestic violence refuges and findings from this study indicate the importance of emotional intelligence.

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