Capturing the carer’s experience: a researcher’s reflections
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Capturing the carer’s experience: a researcher’s reflections

Katharine Whittingham Assistant professor in community nursing, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
Sarah Barnes Senior lecturer in public health, School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
Jeremy Dawson Reader in health management, School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Aim To reflect on the methodological challenges of conducting a study exploring the effects on quality of life of being an informal carer for a person with palliative heart failure, as well as the factors that influence a carer’s perception of caring.

Background There are multi-faceted influences on the positive and negative effects of being a carer for a patient with palliative heart failure. By conducting a mixed methods study the aim was to examine and explore similarities and differences of the phenomenon of being a carer.

Data sources Quantitative data obtained from the Family Quality of Life Questionnaire (FAMQOL), and qualitative data obtained from 14 interviews with informal carers of patients living with palliative heart failure.

Review methods The study was conducted as part of a PhD, University of Sheffield, and the supervisory team reviewed the research process throughout the study.

Discussion The study had a two-phase sequential mixed methods design. A sample of carers was recruited from heart failure nurse service caseloads in a UK urban setting. Carers were invited to complete the Family Quality of Life Questionnaire, a tool developed for carers of patients with heart failure. Participants were also asked to provide contact details if they were willing to be interviewed for the second phase of the study.

Conclusion The study highlights important methodological considerations for recruiting carers. As the intention was to begin the analysis of the questionnaires before beginning the second phase of the study, the researcher was compelled to consider how integration was maintained and how to improve access to carers for research.

Implications for practice The complexities associated with the population in this study led the researcher to use a pragmatic design to address research questions. When reflecting on the research and the challenges associated with recruiting to the quantitative phase of the study, the researcher used an iterative approach to meet the unfolding complexities. Such an approach could prove beneficial for mixed methods studies that aim to engage with hard to reach populations.

Nurse Researcher. 23, 5, 31-35. doi: 10.7748/nr.23.5.31.s7

Peer review

This article has been subject to double-blind review and has been checked using antiplagiarism software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 07 July 2015

Accepted: 20 November 2015

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