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


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.