A Heart for the Care: Affect, Kin, and Care Work in a Zambian Hospital

Emma Nelson Bunkley, Comfort Asante, Sarah Burack, Lindsey Kaufman, Sam Miti, Jean Hunleth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At the only standalone pediatric hospital in Zambia, patient wellbeing often rests in the hands of bedsiders. Bedsiders are caregivers, often family, who sit at the patient's bedside, feeding, cleaning them, and running medical errands. Bedsiders are critical human infrastructure for the hospital and its staff. In our research, we heard repeatedly that bedsiders must have a “heart” for caregiving, taking on unremunerated and exhausting informal labor. We draw on Wendland's “heart for the work,” a phrase commonly used among healthcare workers in Malawi and Zambia describing the medical profession, to explore what this metaphor reveals about care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-66
Number of pages13
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Zambia
  • bedsider
  • caregiving
  • heart
  • hospital ethnography


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