Aim To reflect on the author’s personal and professional journey when undertaking semi-structured interviews on sensitive topics with potentially vulnerable people.
Background When discussing care at the end of life, researchers must accept that some participants may become distressed or emotional, depending on their previous experiences. Interviews that involve sensitive topics require careful planning.
Data sources The semi-structured interviews were conducted as part of the author’s PhD study examining the experiences of advance care planning among family caregivers of people with advanced dementia.
Review methods A reflection on my personal and professional journey when undertaking semi-structured interviews on sensitive topics with potentially vulnerable people.
Discussion The frustration and tragedy of dementia, as experienced by the family caregivers, were powerful and required the author to exert self-control to avoid being overly sympathetic and offering words of reassurance, agreement and comfort.
Conclusion This blurring of roles between researcher and nurse has implications for all nurse researchers who undertake qualitative interviews, particularly when an intense emotional response is likely.
Implications for research/practice Nurse researchers should plan and prepare for potential blurring of roles during emotional interviews and should never automatically assume that they are sufficiently prepared as a result of their previous experience and nurse training.