The value of reflexivity in resolving ethical dilemmas in care homes.

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Aim.  This paper highlights ethical dilemmas experienced by researchers when undertaking qualitative inquiry with vulnerable older people in care homes. Scenarios from research that adopted a constructivist approach illustrate a range of ethical dilemmas and propose practical strategies.

Background.  The importance of ethical comportment within qualitative inquiry is uncontested within the literature. Ethical guidelines exist to support qualitative researchers, but there appears limited consensus on how these are applied. Subsequently, ethical conduct in qualitative research relies heavily on researcher reflexivity and the development of positive relationships with participants. Although these aspects are widely recognized, there is limited literature on how this is achieved in the research process.

Discussion.  In-depth analysis of confidentiality, privacy and informed consent supports researchers in navigating these ethical issues in care homes research. Placing the older person at the centre of ethical decisions enables the researcher to consider simultaneously the context and relationships that exist. This promotes a transparent process that demonstrates ethical sensitivity.

Conclusion.  When involved in ethical decisions in care homes, researchers are encouraged to consider how each participant may engage in a consultative process, acknowledging that they are a person living in a social world, interacting with both researcher and their environment. This approach promotes the inclusion of older people in decisions affecting the research proces
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2068- 2077
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Care homes
  • Older people
  • Ethics
  • Consent
  • person centred research
  • reflexivity


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