Stories of death and dying: using (video)diaries in understanding how nursing students frames and forms decisive moments of learning close to death

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Ethnography is argued to be one of the most exciting and misunderstood research methodologies in educational research (Walford, 2008). Despite ongoing debates about how to conduct and present ethnographic work, it has some key features and is not based on a single method of data collection or analysis (Atkinson, 2015). This paper argues that whilst participant observation is at the heart of the ethnographic tradition (Ibid.), other methodologies offer valuable additions.

The purpose of the paper is to show and discuss how written diaries as well as video diaries enrich educational ethnographic research in clinical nursing education. Focusing on stories of nurse students first meeting with death and dying, the paper reflects how the stories frame and construct student’s personal experiences of being students in high-risk learning contexts. Contexts, in which the margin between life and death is small and constricted.

Being close to dying patients is remarkably hard work and findings from the studies upon which this paper is based, reveals how being around dying patients and dealing with death includes mixed emotions. Feelings of inadequacy and of frustration, sorrow and sadness is connected with learning how to be in the same room and ‘being with’ the dying patient at the end of life.

Learning to deal with death demands a language that can contain and give voice to the suffering and the sorrow associated with bearing witness to the death of the patient. For the ethnographer the use of visual and written diaries can be seen as an enrichment to what Atkinson (2015) calls old-fashioned fieldwork. For the students, telling their stories also had an impact on their formation and professional identity. This paper reflects the voices given both to the ethnographer and the person telling the story, and how this respectively, forms both the ethnography and the nurse student.

Publikationsdato20 sep. 2018
StatusUdgivet - 20 sep. 2018
BegivenhedThe Oxford Ethnography and Education Conference 2018 - New College Oxford, Oxford, Storbritannien
Varighed: 18 sep. 201820 sep. 2018


KonferenceThe Oxford Ethnography and Education Conference 2018
LokationNew College Oxford


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