Challenges and reflections from an international, humanitarian, short-term surgical mission on collecting ethnographic data in a remote environment

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Nurse Researcher, 2019, 27 (2)
Issue Date:
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© 2019 RCN Publishing Company Limited. Background The experiences of nurses participating in ethnographic fieldwork have been well documented, but often feature short-term, intermittent periods in the field of less than a day. Aim To provide an overview of methodological issues related to collecting data while undertaking a focused ethnography of nurses volunteering with a humanitarian organisation providing surgical care in a remote setting. Discussion Particular challenges during the fieldwork included limited space and privacy influencing data collection and secure storage; sporadic and unreliable communications limiting contact with other members of the research team; the challenges of withdrawing from the intensity of the setting; and navigating blurred boundaries between the roles of clinician and researcher. Conclusion Social research in practice, despite the best of intentions and significant planning, may not always travel the expected path of rational enquiry. Implications for practice Awareness of the challenges involved before embarking on longer term entry into remote environments may help prepare future nurse ethnographers.
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