Methodological issues conducting sensitive research on lesbian and gay men's experience of nursing care

J Adv Nurs. 1997 Mar;25(3):626-33. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.t01-1-1997025626.x.


This paper is a methodological discussion on a qualitative research project which involved interviewing lesbians and gay men about their experiences of nursing care. The research project arose primarily because most of the knowledge available on the subject was based on hearsay and anecdote. It is worthy of note that those who felt there was an issue to be addressed, as well as the bearers of anecdote, were by and large what would be termed 'insiders' in ethnographic research, and zealots with an axe to grind in less academic circles. It is the nature of this "insider' status which is of interest throughout the research process of what was and remains a sensitive research topic. 'Insider' status can reduce many of the problems associated with conducting sensitive research in terms of access, rapport with subjects, ethical concerns, and stigma contagion, but by the same token lays researchers open to the charge of bias thought to be inherent in going native, or rather in this case being native. However, there are some problems associated with 'insider' status as well and this paper offers a discussion of the methodological problems we have encountered in relation to this, as well as more general methodological issues when conducting research considered to be sensitive. Ethical dilemmas also arose during the research when lesbian and gay patients who were currently receiving hospital care contacted the researchers directly because they felt threatened by nursing and medical staff. The paper is an attempt to describe some fairly conscious strategies to use the research team's 'insider' status for methodological reasons and to explain the ethical position we took when we felt compromised.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Behavioral Research*
  • Ethics, Nursing
  • Female
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Care / psychology*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / standards
  • Prejudice
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design*
  • Research Subjects
  • Research*
  • Researcher-Subject Relations
  • Selection Bias