The Trojan War inside nursing: An exploration of compassion, emotional labour, coping and reflection

Adele Banks Van Zyl, Ian Noonan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Compassionate care is fundamental to nursing. However, when delivering compassionate care, the expected emotional state may not always spontaneously arise, risking a dissonance between authentic and displayed emotions. Nurses may therefore be required to engage in some form of emotional regulation strategy, to conform with assumed professional rules on emotional display. In both the dissonance and emotional regulation, there are risks on which nurses need to reflect. In this article, the end of the Trojan War as depicted in Homer's The Iliad and Virgil's The Aeneid is used as an allegory to illustrate the dangers and advantages of using response- or antecedent-focused strategies for emotional regulation. Response-focused strategies are reactive in nature - they could build resilience over time but may leave students and newly qualified nurses feeling exposed. An 'emotional curriculum' to include emotional intelligence in nurse education could equip the students with a more proactive approach to developing resilience rather than defensive practice. Using a narrative as an allegory may help to explore the application of these concepts in nursing practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1192-1196
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Nursing
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


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