Narrative research methods with vulnerable people: sharing insights
evidence and practice    

Narrative research methods with vulnerable people: sharing insights

Ann Catherine Framp Clinical program coordinator, University of the Sunshine Coast, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, Birtinya, Australia
Margaret McAllister Professor of nursing, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Sciences, Central Queensland University, Norman Gardens, Australia
Trudy Dwyer Professor of nursing, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Sciences, Central Queensland University, Norman Gardens, Australia

Background Families with hereditary illnesses have complex and unique experiences that are important for nurses to understand. In New Zealand, a Maori family predisposed to an aggressive gastric cancer recently participated in research to explore their healthcare experiences. The family constituted a vulnerable group, so the methodology needed to be inclusive and respectful. The authors chose to use narrative research.

Aim To share insights from conducting narrative research with a vulnerable family.

Discussion Narrative research aligns well with nursing values. Numerous aspects of the methodology help to reduce power imbalance, enhance openness and explore wide-ranging experiences. These include: cultural humility; use of conversational cues rather than scripted research questions; the adoption of an empathic, curious stance; and working in partnership. Each of these aspects helps to foster an environment conducive to full exploration of experiences. People’s stories are their own, and so researchers need to exercise humility and meticulous safe-keeping of data so that the whole experience is collaborative. When stories are conveyed to others, effort needs to be applied so that the lessons are compelling for others and have generative, change-making potential.

Conclusion Narrative research is a fitting methodology for nurses researching the experiences of vulnerable populations. Illness can be disempowering, but recounting stories may help participants with healing, adaptation and coping.

Implications for practice New knowledge about illness, recovery and nursing care can be generated using a critical approach to analysis. By gaining a deeper understanding of people’s experiences of illness, nurse researchers can co-create and share compelling narratives that may create empathy and change.

Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1671

Peer review

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

Correspondence

aframp@usc.edu.au

Conflict of interest

None declared

Framp A, McAllister M, Dwyer T (2019) Narrative research methods with vulnerable people: sharing insights. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1671

Published online: 05 December 2019