Community Consultation: Ethical Preparation for Nursing Research

Friday, 16 July 2010: 8:50 AM

Wyona M. Freysteinson, MN
Home Health and Hospice, Memorial Hermann Health Care System, Houston, TX

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to recognize the value of community consultation in designing emotionally and/or socially sensitive nursing research studies.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will relate four ethical goals of community consultation to research ethics theory; identify methods of applying community consultation; and analyze a case study.

Purpose: To determine the usefulness of the ethical goals of community consultation model when preparing for emotionally and/or sensitive research. The researcher was wondering whether or not to pursue a study of women viewing themselves in a mirror after a mastectomy. Conflicting viewpoints from colleagues created an ethical dilemma for the researcher. The question posed was:  Was a research study that asked women to tell the intimate details of viewing an amputated breast site in the mirror worthy of research?
Methods: 24 breast cancer survivors and 16 health care professionals in a mastectomy community were invited to contribute their thoughts, recommendations, and/or concerns regarding four ethical goals of community consultation: 1) legitimacy 2) benefits 3) protection and 4) partnership.
Results: Community consultation deemed the research in question worthy of research. Abundant information was gleaned from the community members, much of which the researcher may have inadvertently stumbled onto only during the course of actual research. The benefits of the study were identified for the community and for potential participants. Risks to potential participants were identified, and recommendations were made as to how to offer protection for participants. Finally, the community contributed to the research project by expanding on the phenomena of interest, and by suggesting ways in which participants may be recruited.
Conclusion: Consulting with a community adds to the breadth and depth of knowledge concerning research studies. The ethical goals of community consultation provide a framework for dialogue and synthesis of data. Community consultation is a symbol of respect. When the community which may benefit most from a research project is invited to share in the development of the study, it symbolizes the researcher’s understanding that research ultimately contributes to the social good.