Conducting critical ethnography in long-term residential care: experiences of a novice researcher in the field


  • Jennifer L. Baumbusch

    1. Jennifer L. Baumbusch PhD RN Assistant Professor School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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J.L. Baumbusch:


baumbusch j.l. (2010) Conducting critical ethnography in long-term residential care: experiences of a novice researcher in the field. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(1), 184–192.


Aim.  In this paper, I describe my experiences as a novice researcher doing a critical ethnography in long-term residential care. I reflect upon the challenges and lessons learned in navigating trust and power relations in this complex sociopolitical field.

Background.  Critical ethnography is an important method of inquiry that can lead to disruptions in the status quo and empowerment of disenfranchised groups. In nursing scholarship, there is a body of literature about this method of inquiry. This paper further contributes to this scholarship by describing my experiences in the field, with particular attention to the linkages between the study’s theoretical perspective, method of inquiry, and criteria for trustworthiness, and how these elements guided my actions in the field.

Data sources.  The study that provides the context for this paper was a critical ethnography that examined the organization of long-term residential care in British Columbia, Canada. The method of inquiry was underpinned by a theoretical perspective that wove together a postcolonial feminist approach with Foucauldian epistemology. The study’s criteria for trustworthiness were: credibility, reflexivity, reciprocity, voice and praxis.

Discussion.  Throughout the study, I found myself navigating issues related to building trust in the researcher/participant relationship and navigating power relations. Using examples, I describe how I approached these issues using the criteria for trustworthiness and theoretical perspective as guides.

Conclusion.  Critical ethnography is a method of inquiry that can enrich nursing research and educational scholarship by generating greater understanding about the complex fields in which nurses practise.