DOS 711 - Week 8 Discussion
Initial Post: Insiders and Outsiders in the Waiting Room
Ethnography is a research methodology born out of anthropology.1 In practice, ethnography is a form of inquiry that uses naturalistic methods to gather data, such as observations, examinations of texts and artifacts found in a social scene, and interviews with members of a social group who are "insiders", trying to tell the researcher (an "outsider") about their experience in that setting in their own words through a process of storytelling. These stories are often recorded for later analysis, and the researcher can follow up with the insiders to report their impressions and findings to see if they are accurate representations of the social scene. Typically, ethnography studies are driven by qualitative rather than quantitative information, and the research does not presume to have prior knowledge of the social scene or theories that are being tested. The subjects being interviewed are encouraged to explain their own lives, and the researcher tries to build an interactive picture of how participants navigate the social scene through their own interpretations of events and relationships.
I am curious about the culture of waiting rooms in radiation oncology departments. Each time I walk through ours to get to the elevator, I find myself feeling very much like an outsider because I do not know the patients in the same way that the physicians and therapists do. I sometimes try to nod and smile to people who look up to see who is walking through, but I do not tend to engage with people. In my various passes through the waiting area, I have noticed that there may be a similar sense of disconnection between the other patients, since I never hear conversations. This is a contrast to the waiting room as SCCA Proton Therapy, where I regularly see patients talking with one another. I have also heard from my dosimetry colleagues (Oral communication, March, 2015) who rotate over to Hines VA, who tell me that the patients there often come early and even stay after their appointments because the waiting room is a socialization spot for them.
I would be curious to study the social scene in our department to get a sense of why this one has a different feel as compared to some others that I have experienced or heard about. In order to get an observer's view, I would interview the two front desk receptionists to try to get their take on how the scene is set up. On one hand, they both serve as long-time observers of the scene, but on the other hand, they are also active members of the scene since they interact with the patients daily and are a constant presense. The bulk of the observation data would come from the patients. I would try to interview patients to ask them about their experience of the environment and their interpretations of how the social scene is structured. I would be curious to see if there is a different experience for new patients versus patient who have been coming for several weeks, and I would also like to look for whether subgroups naturally form inside the patient population. I would be interested in learning how patients navigated the scene at first, and hear how that compares to how they navigate it after experiencing it for a while. Since each person will have been both an outsider and then an insider within the span of a few weeks, this could be a very interesting analysis.
- DePoy E, Gitlin LN. Naturalistic inquiry designs. In: Depoy E, Gitlin LN, eds. Introduction to Research: Understanding and Applying Multiple Strategies. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Elsevier;2011:131-132.