An Introduction to Qualitative Health Research.
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Within the context of evidence-informed decision making, health care professionals are critical consumers of research evidence. Clinician scientists, including nurse researchers, play a central role in producing this research evidence to inform and improve health practice, education, and policy. Health research is commonly conducted within one of three different paradigms: quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods. Each research approach is underpinned with unique philosophic assumptions, methods, and rhetoric. The evidence produced within each paradigm is necessary to provide health care decision-makers with information about the complex, and intrinsically diverse, human experiences of health and illness. Qualitative health research has been defined as a discipline, which has its roots in qualitative research and yet is unique in its focus, methods, and rules. The focus of qualitative health research is to describe, explore, and explain the health-illness continuum and issues specific to health services or policy contexts. Research designs unique to conducting qualitative health research include qualitative description, interpretive description, focused ethnography, and case study. Each qualitative health research design helps to logically and pragmatically determine the appropriate methods to use to: 1) define a purposeful sample; 2) identify appropriate strategies for data collection; 3) rigorously apply analytic techniques to the gathered data; and 4) present valid findings. In health, qualitative studies are often an integral component of program evaluations to identify and describe contextual factors related to individuals, teams, organizations or social structures that inhibit or facilitate the successful adoption, implementation and delivery of an intervention or program. Findings from qualitative studies can also inform the development of theoretically and contextually relevant assessment tools that can be used in practice.