Challenges in accessing and interviewing participants with severe mental illness
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Challenges in accessing and interviewing participants with severe mental illness

Daniel Newman PhD student, Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Limerick, Ireland
Pauline O’Reilly Head, Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Limerick, Ireland
Siew Hwa Lee Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland
Catriona Kennedy Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland

Background Interviews are widely used in qualitative research to collect data. However, little has been written about interviewing people with severe mental illness (SMI).

Aim To report and analyse an experience of addressing the ethical and practical challenges of interviewing people with SMI.

Discussion Semi-structured interviews were conducted as part of a doctoral study to explore how service users and healthcare professionals built relationships with each other.

Conclusion Although interviewing participants with SMI was challenging, rich data illustrating their experiences were gathered. Careful planning around ethical considerations, such as obtaining informed consent, was required to maximise the opportunities to gather in-depth information during the interviews. The relationship established between researcher and the participants assisted with sensitive disclosures and allowed participants to tell their stories.

Implications for research This paper provides strategies to help guide researchers planning interviews with vulnerable populations, including those with SMI. These strategies include how to discuss sensitive issues and promote engagement. Listening to participants’ life stories is an intense experience, requiring support for the interviewer to stay neutral during interviews. It is also important to be aware of the differences between the roles of nurse and nurse researcher before undertaking in-depth qualitative interviews, particularly with vulnerable participants.

Nurse Researcher. 25, 1, 37-42. doi: 10.7748/nr.2017.e1443

Correspondence

daniel.newman@ul.ie

Peer review

This article has been subject to double-blind review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None

Received: 03 November 2015

Accepted: 09 November 2016