Accessing vulnerable research populations: an experience with gatekeepers of ethical approval

Int J Palliat Nurs. 2011 Jan;17(1):14-8. doi: 10.12968/ijpn.2011.17.1.14.


Accessing vulnerable populations for research purposes can be difficult, as participants must be sheltered from research that might be insensitive, intrusive, and potentially distressing. People diagnosed with a life-limiting condition may be vulnerable, and involving such people in research samples may be fraught with difficulties. Nevertheless, it is important that these vulnerable populations participate in health and social-care research so that their requirements and opinions can be learnt. This paper describes an experience of proceeding through an ethical approval process for a proposed qualitative research study into the preferred place of death of a group of potentially vulnerable hospice patients. Research of this nature had never been undertaken at the hospice before, and the researchers expected to encounter a degree and variety of gatekeeping when seeking access to this sensitive population.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics*
  • Nursing Research*
  • Vulnerable Populations*