Job satisfaction and emotional work tasks : dentists in Sweden and Denmark

Detta är en avhandling från Malmö university, Faculty of Odontology

Sammanfattning: The thesis consists of two papers which are based on a research project called ‘Good Work’. The overall aim of the Good Work project was to use dentistry as an example of work which has close relations with patients at its core. This kind of work (also called human service work) has special psycho-social work environment considerations and emotional requirements, which need to be considered when organizing work. The aims of the first study were to describe the background and development of the questionnaire ‘Swedish and Danish Dentists’ Perceptions of Good Work’ and to create a measure of overall job satisfaction, applying the measure in four organizational settings. The aim of the second study was to introduce the concept of emotion work in dentistry by giving a theoretical overview of the emotional aspects of work, the conditions under which it is performed and the potential effects on the dentist’s wellbeing. Additional results from the Good Work project have been included in the thesis with the purpose of giving an empirical illustration of how dentists experience the emotional factors related to patient interaction and their job satisfaction. Data from 1226 Danish and Swedish practising dentists was collected in November 2008, with a 68% response rate. An additive index was created to measure overall job satisfaction showing statistical difference in the dentists’ experience according to affiliation (Swedish public/private, Danish public/private). The Danish public dentists had the highest degree of overall job satisfaction and the Swedish public dentists had the lowest. A reason for this difference might be that Danish public dentistry differs from the other three groups in the characteristics of both dentists and patients. However, the lower job satisfaction for the Swedish public dentists could be an effect of New Public Management thinking in organizing dentistry. The additional results showed that Swedish public dentists had substantially less energy left for their private lives compared with the other three groups and only half of them expected to continue working as they do now until retirement. Working directly with or on people is very much about creating good interactions and relations between the health professional and the patient. Good patient relations can be a primary aim and/or a secondary aim, to make other things, e.g. the clinical treatment, easier. To many health professionals their relations with the patients is an arena in which to activate their human potentials and can be experienced as a lasting intrinsic joy from work, called eudaimonia. In the relation with the patient the dentist performs emotion work as an intervention toolkit to direct the patient in a specific direction. Dentists have extensive emotional work tasks in their patient interactions, however this emotional part of dentists’ work is, so far, a neglected research area of odontology. The emotion work tasks are conditioned because the dentists’ incentives are not one-dimensional and require a great deal of emotional flexibility, attentiveness and reflection by the dentist. The influence of the market and managerialism on the professional values of dentistry may challenge the conditions for these tasks in the patient interaction and the wellbeing of the dentist if they are experienced as contradictory. This research aims to encourage and empower different levels of dentistry to further investigate, understand and support the dynamics of the emotional aspects of work with the aim to constitute a sustainable work environment where values and logics can be experienced as compatible with professional values.

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