Anticipating Doing a Study With Dying Patients: An Autoethnography on Researcher Well-Being

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

It is a well known problem that qualitative researchers in the social health sciences are potentially at risk of experiencing emotional burden when confronted with sensitive topics, such as death and dying. A number of research papers and reviews suggest that self-reflection could be helpful in dealing with the associated emotional burden. These publications however typically mention strategies that deal with the problem when emotional burden is already present. In this article I explored if a proactive self-reflective approach could be useful to prevent emotional problems when dealing with dying patients and their relatives during my research project. For this paper I used an autoethnographic approach to describe the self-reflective process I undertook before the start of my research project to identify, reconstruct and analyze a number of critical personal experiences that were likely to cause emotional problems. Five themes emerged: seeing people suffer or die, dealing with bereaved family members, difficulties regarding interdisciplinary research, unresolved personal issues from the past, and unwillingness to take part in my research study. From a methodological point of view, a proactive self-reflective approach deserves consideration as a tool to help better prepare researchers in the social health sciences to conduct research into delicate topics. Not only does it enhance researcher wellbeing, it also increases the quality of the researcher-as-instrument. This article is a worked example of how to engage in such proactive self-reflection and illustrates the added value of including this step at the start of a research project looking into sensitive topics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods
Volume19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2020

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