This week in my Technology in Education course we’re experimenting with PowToon to create short animated videos. We were asked to create a short educational tool that we could use in our teaching. I had already started writing this blog entry, and I thought an animated video might be a nice addition!

And for those of you who enjoy reading…

1) Be reflexive about your clinician identity (i.e. don’t slip into clinician mode!)

It can be easy for peers (and patients) to confuse your roles as a healthcare professional and researcher. How you manage these dual identities is something you’re going to have to start considering beforehand  (see Hunt et al., 2011).

There’s also an ongoing element to managing your dual identities within qualitative research. It’s easy to slip back into the old familiar habits of being a clinician, and you need to be mindful of how your clinician identity and experiences are impacting the research. In the research world, we call this reflexivity. I prefer to call it slipping back into clinician mode.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to completely suppress your clinical identity. Bonding over your shared identity as health and social care professionals can work wonders for building rapport. However, clinician mode can be dangerous. Within our social lives, it is the destroyer of nice “normal” family meals. Within the research world, it is the destroyer of data.

Slipping back into clinician mode puts you at risk of getting back a transcript with no data. It’s pretty difficult to code a transcript when a sizeable portion of it says, “I know what you mean.”

You don’t know what they meant.

No theoretical lens is going to help you there.

Transcriptionists will not give you a refund because you collected crappy data.

Fortunately most of my work has been in surgery (which I don’t have a background in) so I have had the advantage of being both an insider and an outsider. I have insider status and perceived legitimacy because I’m a nurse. But I don’t have a lot of OR experience, and am therefore an outsider in the OR.

And because I’m an outsider, I can get away with asking some incredibly stupid questions.

2) “I’m going to ask you some stupid questions…”

When interviewing fellow healthcare professionals, you should explain that you’re going to ask them some questions that perhaps should be obvious due to your background as a healthcare professional. You are going to ask the surgeon about how he washes his hands. You’re going to ask the nurse who he works with and what their roles are. You’re going to ask the occupational therapist what the heck an occupational therapist is.

In short, you’re going to ask some pretty stupid questions.

But they aren’t stupid. You want to understand their perspective on their experiences. Remind them of this, and don’t be afraid to ask those questions. More often than not their answers will surprise you.

3) Review your transcripts

Most of my slip-ups occur when doing observational work. Often I’ll find vital signs and EBL scribbled into the margins of my fieldnotes. While vital signs are indeed vital as a nurse, they are not quite so important as an ethnographer. What is important is how this data is communicated, and what pieces of information were communicated. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to catch myself slipping into clinician mode during data collection, but other times I’m blissfully unaware until the transcripts come back. On these occasions I wish I could hop into a time machine so I could go back and slap past Rachel up the back of the head.

Since I’m not acquainted with The Doctor, I have to settle with reviewing my transcripts and fieldnotes. I review all of my transcripts looking for these slip-ups, and reflect on how I can avoid them in the future. Sometimes this is a purely reflective process. Other times I will revise my interview script or write little prompts to myself.

It’s not a mistake if you learn from it.

Helpful Resource:

Hunt, M. R., Chan, L. S., Mehta, A. (2011). Transitioning from clinical to qualitative research interviewing. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 10(3), 191-201.

Coar, L., & Sim, J. (2006). Interviewing one’s peers: Methodological issues in a study of health professionals. Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, 24(4), 251-256.