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Action research from the inside: issues and challenges in doing action research in your own hospital


David Coghlan, School of Business Studies, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland. E-mail:


Action research from the inside: issues and challenges in doing action research in your own hospital

Background and rationale. Nurses are increasingly engaging in action research projects to improve aspects of nursing practice, education and management and contribute to the development of the profession. Action research involves opportunistic planned interventions in real time situations and a study of those interventions as they occur, which in turn informs further interventions. Insider action research has its own dynamics which distinguish it from an external action researcher approach. The nurse-researchers are normally already immersed in the organization and have a pre-understanding from being an actor in the processes being studied. There is a paucity of literature on the challenges that face nurse action researchers on doing action research in their own hospital.

Aim. The aim of this article is to address this paucity by exploring the nature of the challenges which face nurse action researchers. Challenges facing such nurse-researchers are that they frequently need to combine their action research role with their regular organizational roles and this role duality can create the potential for role ambiguity and conflict. They need to manage the political dynamics which involve balancing the hospital’s formal justification of what it wants in the project with their own tactical personal justification for the project.

Main issues. Nurse-researchers’ pre-understanding, organizational role and ability to manage hospital politics play an important role in the political process of framing and selecting their action research project. In order that the action research project contribute to the organization’s learning, nurse action researchers engages in interlevel processes engaging individuals, teams, the interdepartmental group and the organization in processes of learning and change.

Conclusions. Consideration of these challenges enables nurse-action researchers to grasp the opportunities such research projects afford for personal learning, organizational learning and contribution to knowledge.

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