Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely our own and not necessarily those of our employer or any other occupational therapist.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Do Clinicians make good researchers?

I attended an interesting session today in the University about Qualitative research. Within this we looked at the skills and techniques that can be used by the researcher to help them to gain a better understanderstanding of the phenomenon or an individual's experience of this phenomenon. It struck me that many, if not all, of these skills are skills that a clinician uses routinely with patients or clients, such as encouraging, leaving pauses between questions and answers, gentle probing and so on. Does it therefore follow that clinicians make natural and effective researchers when using a qualitative design? I wait with interest for any thoughts on this.


Jackie Taylor said...

In the course of doing qualitative data collection for my doctoral studies this is a question I have pondered myself. I was a bit overly confident, I suspect, that I could interview people in a 'person-centred' way, with my knowledge of open questions, reflections, active listening etc. Indeed, these did help - I am a good listener, and could recognise the need to nudge the interviewee back towards the focus of the interview. HOWEVER, I have also had cause to contemplate the difference between being a therapeutic listener and being a researcher listener. On re-reading my transcripts, I can see points where I have chipped in with a therapeutically orientated comment, if, for example, the interviewee was telling me about something difficult in her life. The consequence of this was to veer the interview into a counselling mode, which ended in tears (which we retrieved, and felt okay about). I think that I had an effect which went beyond the normal expectations of a research interview, and was certainly beyond what the particpant was lead to believe would happen in the interview, on the consent form.
So, yes, I think there is a tremendous overlap between the skills of an OT and the skills needed for qualitative research, but the researcher needs to keep in focus what the differences between the two roles are.
Janet Finch has written some interesting stuff on the ethics of being a female researcher interviewing women, in which situation it is often easy (and possibly slightly abusive) to dig deep very quickly.

Bronnie said...

Clinicians make great scientists - clinical scientists. I also think clinicians don't need to JUST consider using qualitative methods (not that I have anything against qualitative, but in occupational therapy it's often emphasised!).
The important thing is to know what is your research question? And then what is the best way of investigating this question...
And finally - how can I tell people about the findings so they translate from 'research' to 'therapy'.
I'm really committed to being a clinical scientist - to me it's imperative if I want to be able to justify to anyone that what I do has value.

Traci said...

Hello! I just found your blog, and noticed this topic while browsing. I find this subject very interesting since I took a research position at a university just a year ago (and I have an OTD versus a PhD). While hired due to being an OT, it's not in an OT department, and in fact, the university doesn't even have an OT program. My research involves a variety of areas from older adults/ aging in place, participation in the home, community or workplace, to assistive technology.

The hardest part of the transition from a clinician to a researcher is beginning to consider things from a research standpoint, rather than a clinical standpoint. For example, in one project we were testing a new transfer board prototype and I was considering safety while testing - something no one else seemed to have thought about! After all, we were asking people to use an unfamiliar device for a transfer. They were expecting an individual to transfer to a bathtub using a sliding board - and did not have any type of seat (were simply thinking that they would transfer to the edge of the bathtub)!

My boss tells me to "think like a researcher, not as an OT" but I feel that there's a fine line between the two and things get entertwined. I like Jackie's statement regarding "the researcher needs to keep in focus what the differences between the two roles are." I've definitely been giving that a lot of thought!