Emotional dissonance in medical social work practice

Keith R. Nelson, Joseph R. Merighi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This qualitative study examined several ecological aspects of medical social work practice that affect social workers' emotional well-being. Forty-seven medical social workers from seven hospitals participated in small group interviews in which practice experiences were explored. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data, with emotional dissonance emerging as a central theme. Community, family, and individual factors contributing to emotional dissonance are presented, and the effect of social support is examined. Implications for social work practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-79
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Work in Health Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Keith R. Nelson is Research Assistant, College of Social Work, San José State University (E-mail: KNCW@aol.com). Joseph R. Merighi is Assistant Professor, College of Social Work, San José State University (E-mail: jmerighi@email.sjsu.edu). Address correspondence to: Joseph R. Merighi, College of Social Work, One Washington Square, San José State University, San José, CA 95192-0124. This research was funded in part by a California State University Research Grant and the Sybil Weir/John Galm Endowment Award.


  • Ecology
  • Emotional dissonance
  • Medical social work
  • Social work practice


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