Quantitative information appears to be more objective, so I find it easier to interpret the results and determine the practical implications of those results. For example, excessive nursing workload is predictive of HAI risk in the ICU, so I can participate in organizational decision-making by recommending appropriate solutions (e.g. more nursing staff, employee stress management programs, etc.). However, I can also understand that the exact effect size is unclear, so further research is necessary to determine what other factors affect HAI risk for patients and solve them.
Quantitative data is much more difficult to misinterpret than qualitative data. For example, it is evident that the study Daud-Gallotti et al. (2012) was a single-center study, and the lack of a randomized design and possible influences of extraneous variables in real world settings indicates that it was a quasi-experimental study. Because I am aware of the limitations of the quasi-experimental research design, I can consider those limitations when interpreting the results. In qualitative studies, one set of results can be interpreted through multiple lenses. For example, Saint et al. (2010) discuss the themes they found as characteristics of transformational leaders, but these findings could also be interpreted considering other leadership styles, such as democratic or participative leadership. That is why understanding quantitative methods can help me assess the validity of quantitative studies and their results, but when it comes to interpreting qualitative studies, I need to understand my own personal perspectives I bring into the interpretation of the results.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mixed-Methods Research
Although Siant et al. (2010) report using mixed-methods, the quantitative phase of the study is not reported because its purpose appears to be only to determine where the authors will conduct the qualitative study. Therefore, this study is primarily qualitative. The advantage of this approach is that it can be used to investigate issues that are not yet completely understood, such as the role of leaders in implementing successful HAI prevention programs. Another advantage is that it is not restricted to quantitative instruments, so themes that have been overlooked by other studies can emerge.
The main disadvantage of qualitative studies is that they are difficult to generalize and have a lot of potential validity threats. For example, the study by failed to ensure the external validity because it used purposive sampling. Therefore, the results cannot be generalized accurately, and the results are not replicable because the grounded theory approach would have been better to categorize the emerging themes in this case.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Quantitative Research
Quantitative research is has several advantages, and the most significant advantage is the ability to develop replicable and credible results. For example, the study by Daud-Gallotti et al. (2012) can be replicated by another researcher because the data collection methods and analyses are thoroughly reported.
The disadvantage of quantitative studies in some areas of nursing is that prospective experimental studies are not always feasible. According to the authors, this was the first prospective study on HAI risk, but this study was mainly observational and collected data without manipulating independent variables. Because the patients’ lives depend on the treatment, manipulating treatment options as the independent variable in practical settings is unethical, so conducting prospective experimental studies in acute care settings is not feasible.
“Qualitative Research Is Not Real Science” Response
Qualitative research is often criticized because it does not provide empirical evidence, but it has a lot to offer to the field of nursing. For example, one of the assumptions of qualitative studies is that every finding has several alternative explanations that depend on the perspective used to analyze the results (Graneheim & Lundman, 2004). Quantitative research is needed to establish evidence-based practices, but without evidence-based practices, nurses must rely on personal judgments. For nurses who often need to make personal judgments in clinical practice and make quick decisions, the ability to examine issues from multiple perspectives is critical for ensuring care quality.
Various qualitative approaches to inquiry can be used to improve nursing practice. For example, phenomenology is a qualitative approach that investigates the experiences of a group of individuals that have a specific event, such as cancer survival, in common (Creswell, 2013). According to Barry and Yuill (2008), understanding patients in contemporary medicine is as important as understanding medical procedures. By using phenomenological research, nurses can learn more about their patients’ experiences and improve their patient interactions based on understanding their experiences.
Therefore, qualitative studies do not completely adhere to the scientific method, but they do have advantages over quantitative studies because they allow researchers to explore phenomena that cannot be quantified and discover themes that quantitative research can later elaborate on. The advantage of quantitative methods is the ability to use them in developing evidence-based practices, but only qualitative studies can be used to improve the understanding of patients and develop patient-centered care delivery.
Barry, A. & Yuill, C. (2008). Understanding the sociology of health: An introduction. (2nd ed.). London: SAGE Publications.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Daud-Gallotti, R. M., Costa, S. F., Guimarães, T., Padilha, K. G., Inoue, E. N., Vasconcelos, T. N., & Levin, A. S. (2012). Nursing workload as a risk factor for healthcare associated infections in ICU: A prospective study. PloS One, 7(12), e52342.
Graneheim, U. H., & Lundman, B. (2004). Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: Concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness. Nurse Education Today, 24(2), 105-112.
Saint, S., Kowalski, C. P., Forman, J., Damschroder, L., & Krein, S. L. (2010). The importance of leadership in preventing healthcare‐associated infection: Results of a multisite qualitative study. Infection control and hospital epidemiology, 31(9), 901-907.