Nurses’ experiences of ethnographic fieldwork
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Nurses’ experiences of ethnographic fieldwork

Lucas Pereira de Melo Professor of public health, Multicampi School of Medical Sciences, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Natália Sevilha Stofel Researcher, Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Dulce Maria Rosa Gualda Professor of maternal and children’s health, School of Nursing, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Edemilson Antunes de Campos Professor of medical anthropology, School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Aim To reflect on the experiences of nurses performing ethnographic fieldwork in three studies.

Background The application of ethnography to nursing research requires discussion about nurses’ experiences of ethnographic fieldwork. This article examines some of the dilemmas that arise during the research process.

Data sources Three ethnographic studies conducted by the authors in the south and southeast of Brazil. Excerpts from field diaries created during each research are presented at the end of each topic discussed.

Review methods This is a reflexive paper that explores the nurses’ experience in ethnographic fieldwork.

Discussion This article discusses the main tasks involved in ethnographic research, including defining the study aim, reading and understanding anthropological theoretical bases, and setting a timeframe for the study. The article also discusses the idiosyncrasies of the cultural contexts studied, the bureaucracy that may be confronted when gaining access to the field, the difficulty of transforming the familiar into the strange, why ethnocentric perspectives should be avoided, and the anthropological doubt that places the ethnographer in the position of apprentice. It also discusses the importance of listening to others, reflexivity and strategies to stay in the field.

Conclusions For researchers, ethnographic fieldwork can be a rite of passage, but one that provides invaluable experiences that emphasise the value of relationships based on dialogue, reflexivity and negotiation.

Implications for practice/research The main tasks undertaken in ethnographic research discussed in this article could contribute to the nurse’ experience of conducting ethnographic fieldwork.

Nurse Researcher. 22, 1, 14-19. doi: 10.7748/nr.22.1.14.e1243

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 10 April 2013

Accepted: 29 July 2013

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