Reflexivity in a study of family carers in home palliative care: a personal account
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Reflexivity in a study of family carers in home palliative care: a personal account

Jenny Newbury Community palliative care nurse specialist, Dorothy House Hospice, Winsley, Wiltshire, UK

Aim To discuss a personal account of the role of reflexivity in a qualitative, grounded theory study with family carers in home palliative care.

Background The study explored the experience of carers of family members dying at home using semi-structured interviews before and after the death. It focused on carers’ expectations and preparedness for the dying process. The findings suggested that carers play a leading role in a drama but there are no rehearsals because they have not been in this role before. They also have no script because they find it hard to read about the dying process. Consequently they feel anxious, uncertain and unprepared. They have direction from professionals and support from paid carers, but have mixed experiences of these services. Hence the research setting was charged with emotion and presented particular ethical challenges.

Discussion Reflexivity is an important component of qualitative inquiry. It involves constant attention to the researcher’s perspective, background and influence on the research process and the effects this has on the researcher, which may affect the research. Reflexivity was a prominent thread throughout my study, involving epistemological and personal aspects. It focused on my performance as researcher and the role of empathy and reciprocity in the researcher-participant relationship. The potential for therapeutic change for research participants was seen as beneficial, but it could cause conflict between my roles as nurse and researcher and risk of exploiting participants. Reflexivity also involved exploration of the emotional impact of doing the research and implications of the research setting.

Conclusion Reflexivity was an essential and dynamic component of this study, which involved constant interplay between the author and the research.

Nurse Researcher. 19, 1, 30-36. doi: 10.7748/nr2011.10.19.1.30.c8769

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Accepted: 12 July 2010

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