Qualitative Research in an International Research Program: Maintaining Momentum while Building Capacity in Nurses
Nurses are knowledgeable about issues that affect quality and equity of care and are well qualified to inform policy, yet their expertise is seldom acknowledged and their input infrequently invited. In 2007, a large multidisciplinary team of researchers and decision-makers from Canada and five low- and middle-income countries (Barbados, Jamaica, Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa) received funding to implement a participatory action research (PAR) program entitled “Strengthening Nurses’ Capacity for HIV Policy Development in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.” The goal of the research program was to explore and promote nurses’ involvement in HIV policy development and to improve nursing practice in countries with a high HIV disease burden. A core element of the PAR program was the enhancement of the research capacity, and particularly qualitative capacity, of nurses through the use of mentorship, role-modeling, and the enhancement of institutional support. In this article we: (a) describe the PAR program and research team; (b) situate the research program by discussing attitudes to qualitative research in the study countries; (c) highlight the incremental formal and informal qualitative research capacity building initiatives undertaken as part of this PAR program; (d) describe the approaches used to maintain rigor while implementing a complex research program; and (e) identify strategies to ensure that capacity building was locally-owned. We conclude with a discussion of challenges and opportunities and provide an informal analysis of the research capacity that was developed within our international team using a PAR approach.