Methodological considerations when using ethnography to explore home care
Evidence and practice    

Methodological considerations when using ethnography to explore home care

Jessica Baillie Lecturer (adult nursing) and RCBC Wales postdoctoral research fellow, School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales

Background Ethnography has been widely and successfully used in nursing and healthcare research, in particular to explore culture in clinical settings. Ethnographic studies are less often used to explore the effects of home medical technologies, despite the ongoing drive for patients to assume responsibility for their own care and to receive care at home.

Aim To discuss methodological considerations when conducting ethnographic research in patients’ homes, drawing on a study exploring the culture of patients and their families living with peritoneal dialysis in their homes.

Discussion In-depth insights obtained by observing participants in their homes, recording field notes through text and diagrams, minimising intrusion, and promoting participants’ privacy with adapted periods of observation are examined. The author’s role in caring for ill participants in the home is also covered.

Conclusion Ethnography can generate holistic, rich data, but must be adapted when used in participants’ homes.

Implications for practice Ethnography can help healthcare professionals and policymakers to understand the effects on patients and their families of living with home medical technologies.

Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1638

Peer review

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


Conflict of interest

None declared

Baillie J (2019) Methodological considerations when using ethnography to explore home care. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1638

Published online: 08 August 2019

Want to read more?

Already subscribed? Log in


Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first 3 months

Your subscription package includes:
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals and their archives
  • Customisable dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now