Reflecting on methodological and ethical considerations when interviewing healthcare professionals

8 March 2022

The impacts of healthcare professionals being research participants are often neglected. As professionals, they tend to be perceived as ‘immune’ to many negative effects of sharing their experiences. However, in the context of an ongoing global pandemic such as COVID-19, these assumptions can be clearly challenged. In March 2022, the RECOVER Social Science team, together with other collaborators, published a new article that draws on their experiences of conducting single and longitudinal qualitative interviews with Health Care Professionals (HCP) in primary, secondary and tertiary settings during the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe during 2020. These interviews were conducted by three researchers with over three hundred participants, from eight European countries, which included the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Greece and Poland.

In this paper, the Social Science team explores arising issues, tensions and considerations related to ‘vulnerability’ and ‘sensitivity., when conducting research with HCPs. The paper highlights that qualitative interviews during a pandemic are embedded in sense-making processes for both the interviewer and participant, and as such may play an important role in coping and resilience. The participants (HCPs) may use the research interview space to process what happened to them and how they felt about it. At the same time,, taking part in interviews may represent a trade-off for HCPs, potentially offering certain benefits whilst, as noted, also potentially negatively impacting time, other resources and wellbeing.

With this paper, the team aims to prepare researchers for managing these potential facets during the research process. The study concludes with practical implications for managing emerging ethical tensions, methodological challenges and the wide-ranging possibilities and responsibilities for research with HCPs, urging researchers to consider the issues in advance.

Read the article.

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