Utility of qualitative methods in a clinical setting: perinatal care in the Western Province.

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A peculiar paradox that has been observed in previous studies of antenatal care is where patients are satisfied with the services despite obvious lack of basic facilities. Qualitative methods were used to describe the experience of perinatal care in the Western province with the objective of demonstrating application of this method in a clinical setting. This paper used a 'naturalistic' approach of qualitative methods. In-depth interviews conducted with 20 postnatal mothers delivering in tertiary care institutions in the Western province was tape recorded, transcribed and content analysed. To ensure objectivity and validity of results, the principle investigator received only the anonymised data to prevent any prejudices or pre-conceptions affecting the results. The main themes emerging from the text demonstrated 'naïve trust' in the carer and a state of 'hero worship' where patients were distanced and therefore unable and unwilling to query the decisions made by the carers. This is similar to a state of patient-carer relationship described in a published model known as guarded alliance, where the relationship develops though four phases based on the level of trust and confidence in the relationship. This state explains not only why patients fail to recognise and report any deficiencies in the services but also the need for them to justify the behaviour of caregivers even when it amounts to incompetence and negligence. Qualitative methods allow the researcher to capture experiences in its 'natural' form rather than based on pre-determined protocols or plans, which may be limited to our own understanding and expectations and therefore unable to explain many idiosyncrasies of the programmes. This paper argues favourably for the use of qualitative methods in other clinical settings.




Jayasuriya, V. (2012). Utility of qualitative methods in a clinical setting: perinatal care in the Western Province. The Ceylon Medical Journal, 57(1), 10–13. https://doi.org/10.4038/cmj.v57i1.4194

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