Category Archives: Qualitative research

Words vs. Numbers: What does it all mean?

There are several ways to classify types of research.   One way is qualitative versus quantitative–in other words, WORD  vs. NUMBER data, methods, & analysis.

  1. Qualitative research focuses on words (or sometimes images) and their meanings.
  2. Quantitative research focuses on numbers or counting things and statistical analysis that yields probable meaning.

If you watch this short, easy-to-understand youtube clip, you’ll have all the basics that you need to understand these!   Enjoy!

Critical thinking:  Go to PubMed for this QUANTitative study on spiritual issues in care (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28403299) and compare it to this PubMed QUALitative study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27853263) in terms of data, methods, & analysis)

For more information: See earlier posts

Listen up! Don’t interrupt!

Researchers collect two types of data in their studiescounting-sheetword-art

  1. Numbers (called quantitative data)
  2. Words & narratives (called qualitative data)

StorytellerOne source of rich word or narrative (qualitative) data for answering nursing questions is nurses’ stories.  Dr. Pat Benner RN, author of Novice to Expert explains two things we can do to help nurses fully tell their stories so we can learn the most from their practice.

  1. Listen well without interrupting
  2. Help nurses ‘unpack’ their stories 

Check out this excellent 2:59 video of Dr. Benner’s and revolutionize how you learn about nursing from nursing stories:  Preview: The use of Narratives 

Critical thinking:  For a study using narratives in research see  Leboul et al. (2017).  Palliative sedation challenging the professional competency of health care providers and staff: A qualitative focus group and personal written narrative study.  [full text available thru PubMed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28399846].    1) Do you think the authors listened and unpacked information from the focus groups & written narratives; 2)  Do you think there might be a difference in the way people write narratives and verbally tell narratives?   3) How might that difference if any affect the research findings?

For more information:  Check out The Power of Story  by Wang & Geale (2015) at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352013215000496

 

DATA COLLECTION SECTION! (Methods in the Madness)

Key point! The data collection section of a research article includes: who collects what data when, where & how.

In previous blogs we’ve looked at title, introduction, and other elements of methods section (design, sample, & setting). In this one let’s take a look at data collection.

Data are a collection of measurements. For example, student scores on a classroom test might be 97, 90, 88, 85, & so on. Each single score is a datum; collectively they are data.

What data are collected is answered in this section. The data (or measurements) can be counting-hashmarksnumbers OR words. For example, numbers data might include patient ratings of their pain on a 0-10 scale. An example of word data would asking participants to describe something in words without counting the words or anything else.  For example, word data might include patient descriptions pain in words, like word-art“stabbing,”  “achy,” and so on.  Sometimes a researcher collects both number and word data in the same study to give a more complete description.  You can see how knowing the patient’s pain rating and hearing a description would give you a much clearer picture of pain.

  • Studies reporting data in numbers are called quantitative studies
  • Studies reporting data in words/descriptions are called qualitative studies
  • Studies reporting number & word data are called mixed methods studies

How the data are collected includes what instrument or tool was used to gather data (e.g., observation, biophysical measure, or self-report) and how consistently & accurately that tool measures what it is supposed to measure (e.g., reliability & validity). Also included is who collected the data and the procedures that they followed—how did they obtain consent, interaction with subjects, timing of data collection and so on.

Now you know!

Critical thinking question: Did these authors use qualitative or quantitative data collection methods?  Coelho, A., Parola, V., Escobar-Bravo, M., & Apostolo, J. (2016). Comfort experience in palliative care, BMD Palliative care, 15(71). doi: 10.1186/s12904-016-0145-0.  Explain your answer.

Afraid to Relieve Pain? You may have Opiophobia

fear5In pain management are you afraid to give comfort to your patients with appropriate medications?   Are you afraid to be comforted when in pain?  Have you encountered families or care partners, who are afraid to comfort their loved one in pain by giving pain medications?

In a classic 2002 qualitative study, “Fearing to Comfort,” Zerwekh, Riddell, & Richard identified that RNs, physicians, patients, families, and health systems were afraid to relieve pain with appropriate use of pain medications.  They were Not doing evidence-based practice, but fear-based practice. barrier

Fear barriers include, but are not limited to 1) patients’ fear of addiction, fear of distracting the MD from the main treatment plan, and loss of control; 2) MDs’ avoiding the needs of the dying, fear of rewarding drug-seekers, or equating pain management with euthanasia; 3) RNs’ avoiding pain, failing to switch to palliative goals at end of life,  and fear of killing the patient; 4) families’ fears of addiction, side effects, & killing their loved one; and 5) health facilities’ not giving unique consideration to those at end of life, inadequate staffing, & time constraints (Zerwekh et al., 2002).

This is an issue because irrational problems cannot be simply solved by giving rational Pain fistinformation.   We have to find evidence-based practices that can create a change of heart, if you will.  As Zerwekh et al wrote: “Because fear is so influential in decisions to keep pain under control, palliative educational approaches must go beyond providing information to fill deficits in palliative knowledge.”
We must learn evidence-based ways to overcome fear and control pain.  Why?  Because pain interferes with living life.  Who are we protecting when we fear appropriate pain medications?  Not the patient.

FearRemedy?  Palliative care education must confront the fears and remove them through cognitive restructuring that includes learning to question beliefs about addiction etc.  Role playing, role modeling, and an expert walking through this with the provider or family who is afraid.  Beyond this helping people to recognize their own fears of pain & death, and providing the very best available information on pain management (Zerwekh et al).

CRITICAL THINKING:  Have you been afraid?  Or seen others afraid?  How can you solve this problem using evidence-based practice that = BEST available evidence + Clinical judgment + Patient/family preferences & values? Be specific because if you haven’t yet encountered the problem of fearing to comfort, be assured that you will.fear4

FOR MORE INFORMATION:   Read full text Zerwekh et al (2002) online.   It could change your life & the life of those for whom you care!!

Is a Picture Worth 1,000 words?

Sometimes the best way to answer a research question is to have the participants draw pictures & explain them.  In fact, some have identified art as a powerful communication tool between children and researchers.   The pictures are then analyzed for themes that show up in the drawings.  No numbers or statistics are used.

Methods: When Brady (2009) wondered how children defined a “good nurse,” she asked 22 ethnically diverse, hospitalized girls and boys aged 7-12 years to draw a picture of a good nurse and a bad nurse.  After the children drew their pictures she asked them to tell her what the nurse was wearing and doing.

Results & discussion: What did the pictures say? Drawings and comments suggested that the children focused on these 5 thematic characteristics for a good nurse:  “communication; professional competence; safety; professional appearance; and virtues,” (p.543) such as honesty, listening, kindness, trustworthiness, & being reassuring & fun. 11-year-old Jason communicated some of it in GoodNurse_BadNurse2Figure 4 on page 552.   12-year-old Luke also showed a sharp contrast in Figure 7 on page 556 that is at the top of this blog.  Children valued a reciprocal relationship with their nurses, caring, and safe/professional behavior. Play was one of many things important to them.

Commentary: While the sample is not representative of a larger group and I would question the authors claim to use grounded theory, the study forms the basis for further research.  Additionally these ideas can help us listen more closely to our own pediatric patients.   It would be particularly interesting to compare these 5 themes to how adult patients of various ages describe a good nurse and a bad nurse.

Critical thinking:  How do you think these children’s perspectives compare with the perspectives of your own pediatric patient population?QUESTION

For more information: See Brady, M. (2009). Hospitalized children’s views of the good nurse, Nursing Ethics, 16(5). doi: 10.1177/0969733009106648