Accessing elite nurses for research: reflections on the theoretical and practical issues of telephone interviewing
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Elite groups are interesting as they frequently are powerful (in terms of position, knowledge and influence) and enjoy considerable authority. It is important, therefore, to involve them in research concerned with understanding social contexts and processes. This is particularly pertinent in healthcare, where considerable strategic development and change are features of everyday practice that may be guided or perceived as being guided, by elites.This paper evolved from a study investigating the availability and role of nurses whose remit involved leading nursing research and development within acute NHS Trusts in two health regions in Southern England. The study design included telephone interviews with Directors of Nursing Services during which time the researchers engaged in a reflective analysis of their experiences of conducting research with an `elite' group. Important issues identified were the role of gatekeepers, engagement with elites and the use of the telephone interview method in this context. The paper examines these issues and makes a case for involving executive nurses in further research. The paper also offers strategies to help researchers design and implement telephone interview studies successfully to maximise access to the views and experiences of `hard to reach groups', such as elites, while minimising the associated disruption.
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