Objective: Although health professionals are increasingly undertaking qualitative interviews with professional peers, there is little literature regarding the methodological implications of this process. The aim of the study was to elicit from informants their views on being interviewed by a fellow health professional.
Design: Semi-structured interviews with nine general practitioners (GPs), three rheumatologists, and three physical therapists, with a substantive focus on perceptions of osteoarthritis. The interviewer was a GP, and informants were asked for their reactions to being interviewed by a fellow professional. Data were analysed by hand, using a thematic approach.
Setting: Primary care clinics and practices in the UK.
Results: Although reassured to the contrary, many informants viewed the interview as a test of their professional knowledge. The interview was also seen by some GPs as serving an educational process, with the interviewer as an authoritative source of clinical information. There were some indications of professional vulnerability among informants in relation to possible scrutiny of their practice or knowledge, though none reported a negative experience of the interview. Notions of professional identity appeared central to many of the issues that emerged.
Conclusion: The nature of the relationship in interviews involving professional peers creates specific methodological issues, which have important implications for qualitative research in primary healthcare. There are both advantages and disadvantages to interviewing professional peers, which should be considered in the light of the objectives of a particular study.