Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 731–737 | Cite as

Giving voice to vulnerable people: the value of shadowing for phenomenological healthcare research

  • Hanneke van der MeideEmail author
  • Carlo Leget
  • Gert Olthuis
Scientific Contribution


Phenomenological healthcare research should include the lived experiences of a broad group of healthcare users. In this paper it is shown how shadowing can give a voice to people in vulnerable situations who are often excluded from interview studies. Shadowing is an observational method in which the researcher observes an individual during a relatively long time. Central aspects of the method are the focus on meaning expressed by the whole body, and an extended stay of the researcher in the phenomenal event itself. Inherent in shadowing is a degree of ambivalence that both challenges the researcher and provides meaningful insights about the phenomenon. A case example of a phenomenological study on the experiences of elderly hospital patients is used to show what shadowing yields.


Lived experience Methodology Body language Phenomenological research Shadowing Qualitative research Observation Elderly hospital patients Less articulate people 



This paper is part of a PhD project funded by ZonMw, The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanneke van der Meide
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carlo Leget
    • 2
  • Gert Olthuis
    • 1
  1. 1.Tilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of Humanistic StudiesUtrechtThe Netherlands

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