Keeping nurse researchers safe

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Publication details

Barr, J & Welch, A 2012, 'Keeping nurse researchers safe', Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol. 68, no. 7, pp. 1538-1545.

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Aim: This article is a report of a qualitative study of workplace health and safety issues in nursing research.

Background: Researcher health and safety have become increasing concerns as there is an increased amount of research undertaken in the community and yet there is a lack of appropriate guidelines on how to keep researchers safe when undertaking fieldwork.

Design: This study employed a descriptive qualitative approach, using different sources of data to find any references to researcher health and safety issues.

Methods: A simple descriptive approach to inquiry was used for this study. Three approaches to data collection were used: interviews with 15 researchers, audits of 18 ethics applications, and exploration of the literature between 1992 and 2010 for examples of researcher safety issues. Data analysis from the three approaches identified participant comments, narrative descriptions or statements focused on researcher health and safety.

Results: Nurse researchers’ health and safety may be at risk when conducting research in the community. Particular concern involves conducting sensitive research where researchers are physically at risk of being harmed, or being exposed to the development of somatic symptoms. Nurse researchers may perceive the level of risk of harm as lower than the actual or potential harm present in research. Nurse researchers do not consistently implement risk assessment before and during research.

Conclusions: Researcher health and safety should be carefully considered at all stages of the research process. Research focusing on sensitive data and vulnerable populations need to consider risk minimization through strategies such as appropriate researcher preparation, safety during data collection, and debriefing if required.

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