Before the COVID-19 pandemic thrust them into the limelight, home care workers worked in the shadows. However valuable their contribution, it was often looked down upon. So how did they find positive meaning in their work?
Kirstie McAllum, an organizational communications researcher at Université de Montréal, explored this theme in 38 interviews with caregivers, their friends and families, and their managers.
The impact of managers appears to be a major factor. Inclusion in decision-making and in the development of interventions by home care teams and recognition of their contribution by their supervisor leads caregivers to feel that they are doing meaningful work.
Friends and family also play an important role. When they overemphasize the difficult or seemingly degrading aspects of caregivers’ tasks, caregivers tend to compensate by talking only about the positive side of their work. This, however, deprives them of an opportunity to open up and get support.
Other elements identified in the interviews relate more to the relationship of caregivers with their jobs. For example, many find their work meaningful because of the skills they develop in the field, such as the ability to detect changes in their patients’ condition. They reported that they gain considerable knowledge in the course of their work and build rewarding interpersonal relationships with patients and their families. They feel that they contribute to the quality of life of the people they help.
Surprisingly, being subjected to negative comments from patients or friends and family does not diminish the meaning caregivers give to their work. Instead, they attribute these difficulties to a loss of autonomy on the part of patients or to the stress experienced by their families. Indeed, their ability to manage these complex situations reinforces their sense of making a meaningful contribution.