Reflective research: supporting researchers engaged in analyzing end-of-life communication

Patient Educ Couns. 2013 Apr;91(1):126-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2012.09.007. Epub 2012 Oct 23.


Objectives: The objectives of this commentary are to: (1) identify unique aspects of communication at end-of-life as compared to more commonly studied healthcare encounters; (2) outline challenges and opportunities research team members may encounter in coding and analyzing end-of-life communication; and (3) offer recommendations for quantitative communication research teams. This commentary is based on ours and others' experiences in studying the communication among patients with terminal illnesses, their families and their providers. Provider-patient/caregiver communication at end-of-life has some differences as compared to other forms of healthcare communication and, thus, has implications for researcher response. Challenges and opportunities for research team members include gaining new knowledge, developing feelings of attachment to study participants, burn-out, and emotional and existential impact on personal life. Practical and psychological considerations for conducting end-of-life communication research are discussed.

Conclusions: Researchers engaged in the study of end-of-life interactions may experience unique challenges, potentially compromising the validity of the research results and interpretation of communication processes. A balance between likely coder emotions and objectivity must be achieved.

Implications: Anticipating and facilitating the research teams' reactions to end-of-life interactions while still maintaining scientific standards may be achieved by using a reflective, mindful approach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Writing