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


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.

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

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Correspondence to Hanneke van der Meide.

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van der Meide, H., Leget, C. & Olthuis, G. Giving voice to vulnerable people: the value of shadowing for phenomenological healthcare research. Med Health Care and Philos 16, 731–737 (2013).

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