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Keywords:

  • methods;
  • design;
  • narrative;
  • story;
  • community psychiatric nurse;
  • empowerment;
  • users;
  • enduring mental disorders;
  • community

Progress's Pilgrim: a critical narrative of research in progress

There is increasing interest in the use of stories to develop nursing and health care practice. This paper reports on how we used story to understand and develop research on nursing practice. Story (or narrative) and science can be seen as distinct but complementary paradigms. We have found that a story framework can help researchers to reflect on a process of social scientific investigation, and to consider how to `go on' in that process. In a study on `Community psychiatric nurses' empowerment of people with enduring mental disorders in the community: involving users to develop services' we have encountered a number of interesting and challenging issues related to design and use of methods. We present these issues within a framework of story analysis, focusing on issues related to empowerment. This analysis draws on Burke's `pentad' of story elements as a framework for narrative analysis. We present the elements of the `story of the study-as-funded' and as it was carried out through the pilot stage, and outline the story of developments in the main study. `Trouble' in a story centres on a problematic `ratio' of story elements. The `trouble' at this stage in the progress of our study relates to lack of fit between some parts of the instruments (the methods) and the goal (empowerment), and to the status of the CPNs as actors or agents. Narrative analysis sensitizes us to these issues of `trouble' and provides a means of addressing them. Like John Bunyan's Pilgrim, we have learned through our progress; unlike Pilgrim, we know not our end.