Aim The aim of this article is to highlight some of the methodological and ethical challenges that the researcher faced when conducting a study of the safety of medication administration.
Background Investigating a sensitive topic, such as the safety of medication administration, can be methodologically demanding, time-consuming and ethically challenging. Moreover, it can be particularly difficult to balance methodological with ethical and legal challenges. This article presents the considerations involved in the sampling, recruitment and ethical issues related to participants' involvement in a medication safety study.
Data sources The article draws on the methodological and ethical approaches related to one qualitative study that investigated the nurse's views of the organisational contributions toward the safety of medication administration in adult critical care. The study was completed in 2009.
Discussion The study used a questionnaire to recruit the participants and this gave the researcher the advantage of being able to select critical care nurses from particular backgrounds, enriching the views and perspectives relating to the topic under investigation. Approaching the participants for ‘expert’ opinions, rather than ‘error-makers’, helped to established early rapport with the participants. Research rigour and data trustworthiness were demonstrated by several operational techniques, including providing a detailed account and justification for the research process.
Conclusion Research into patient safety may have particular methodological and ethical challenges and therefore needs an appropriate research approach to balance practicality, the participants’ integrity and research rigour.
Implications for practice and research It is anticipated that this approach will provide an insight into some challenges that may arise in conducting patient safety research, providing a useful guide for others to consider in their future research.