Mental health nurses and qualitative research methods: a mutual attraction?
In response to issues arising out of curriculum developments, the authors wished to examine more closely the potential reasons why psychiatric/mental health (P/MH) nurses appear to gravitate towards certain research methodologies. This paper therefore briefly examines the essential differences between qualitative and quantitative research paradigms, focusing on philosophical, epistemological and methodological issues. It then proceeds to examine some of the essential characteristics and attributes of P/MH nurses and suggests some differences in emphasis between these and other disciplines of nursing. The authors posit that psychiatric/mental health nurses are drawn to the qualitative paradigm as a result of the potential synchronicity and linkage that appears to exist between the practice of mental health nursing and qualitative research. This apparent synchronicity appears to centre around the three themes of: (a) the purposeful use of self; (b) the creation of an interpersonal relationship; and (c) the ability to accept and embrace ambiguity and uncertainty.
Given this alleged synchronicity the authors argue that there are implications for nurse education and nursing research. Further it is possible that each nursing situation where the mental health nurse forms a relationship and attempts to gain an empathic sense of the individual’s world is akin to an informal phenomenological study, the product of which would be a wealth of qualitative data. However, as this would be a subconscious, implicit process, the data would remain predominantly unprocessed. The authors conclude that perhaps these data are the knowledge that expert practitioners draw upon when making intuition-based clinical judgements.