By Jen Smith, RN, Australia
Two years ago I participated in a research study on self-care for health professionals who work in palliative care. It was a qualitative research study where I was interviewed on what self-care was to me, how I understood it and how I applied it to my own life. This interview was a wonderful experience, which I shared in a blog at the time called ‘The Value of Qualitative Research -Understanding and Expression.’
The research has since been published and it’s had me pondering further about what we call research.
In fact, I re-read the article that I wrote on my experience at that time. As a result of participating in that research I came to new understandings about:
- Myself, working as a nurse and how important self-care is
- How confirming it was to discuss with a researcher how my life has changed with the simple activities of self-care
- Research itself and how amazing it was to participate in a research study.
As I read the research article there was very little, if at all anything on what I had expressed. Not that this is an issue necessarily, but it highlighted something very important to me. There is an intrinsic value and importance to our own expressions and experiences that persists even if they are not reflected directly in a research study, that does not make our experiences any less. Our experiences are just that… our experiences and remain valuable to us because they have been our experiences.
This then lead me to wonder about how some research is more highly prized than others, which was part of my contemplations in my previous article. Something that I did not even consider as part of research were case studies. Case studies are basically regarded academically as the ‘bottom of the barrel’ when it comes to research.
Why is this the case?
Well, one reason could be that there is no money in this form of research, but what stands out even more is the power held within each case study. Because in each case study is a person who is sharing a lived experience. That experience is completely owned by that person and is completely alive within their body. And when we share ourselves in such a way it can inspire others to look at themselves and their lives and to ask deeper questions about themselves. It becomes an intimate and personal connection through this way of sharing. Something that is rarely, if at all, the experience of other research. There is no criticism of other forms of research here, just a recognition that this is what this method of research offers.
So, the question I have now is: why is it that we do not value case studies or our personal experiences on an equal footing in terms of research?
As I read through many of the blogs on this and other sites, each blog, which is a potential case study, has invited me to ask deeper questions on life, to reflect more deeply on my relationships, on the meaning of medicine, health and wellbeing and on the person that I am. To me this personal form of exploration or research is as valuable and important as any other form of research. In fact, given the results from my own experience, and how such personal changes have inspired me to make true and lasting changes in my own life, I would say they have been much more important.
- The Value of Qualitative Research – Understanding and Expression
- Measuring the form of behaviour – a failing of evidence based research in mental health