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Appreciative inquiry, Email, Focus group interviews, Health professionals, Self-care, Qualitative



  1. Dennis, Sally MN (Hons), RN
  2. Waterworth, Susan RN, MPhil, MSc, FRCN (Aotearoa)


The use of email is an internationally recognized and accepted method to communicate information in an asynchronous manner. Yet, despite its ubiquitous use, there is evidence that there are differences in the degree of engagement with and perceived value of email as legitimate work within the healthcare setting. A lack of engagement with email could have consequences on the care of patients if email communication is not read or responded to by the intended recipient. The purpose of this study was to understand the email practices of health professionals within a hospital setting, including their interactions, experiences, and thoughts and ideas for sharing information in the future. Four focus groups (total number of participants, 30) were conducted in 2015 and 2016 using an Appreciative Inquiry model to focus on the use of email. Data were thematically analyzed, with three overarching themes identified: professional practice, workforce self-care, and shaping the future using technology. Overall, email was perceived as a less important function within a health professional's everyday clinical practice; however, this differed depending on their role. The health professionals' use of email ranged from very little engagement to what could be judged as over-engagement, all of which have implications for healthcare organizations who view email as a legitimate work task and a key way to communicate.