June 4, 2015
What is PaCER? PaCER is an acronym for Patient and Community Engagement Research. Reflecting elements of participatory action research, it provides an innovative way to collect rich qualitative data. Let’s say a researcher wanted to better understand the lived experience of hemodialysis patients to have a clearer idea of what factors motivate a patient’s self management choices. The typical approach to such a qualitative study would be to have the academic researcher or research assistant interview the participant. However, this poses a common problem that is often faced in qualitative research: there is an underlying distance or disconnect between the researcher and the participant because the researcher is essentially an outsider looking in. An unfamiliar guest in someone else’s world; and we all know that when we have an unfamiliar guest in our home, we want to make a good impression. Thus, participants may not always feel like they can fully express themselves in such interviews. They may hold back from truly expressing themselves because they want to be seen in a particular way. PaCER helps to circumvent this problem because the patient engagement researcher is a fellow patient or family member of a patient going through the same experience. Think about it, if that guest in your home is now someone who has lived a life similar to yours, who has experienced the things you have experienced, has seen what you have seen, there is an unspoken understanding that already exists between you and them because of a shared perspective. This common ground allows for a unique connection. The information that may not have been reached is now accessible, and enables us to obtain qualitative data that is potentially much richer and more insightful than anything that could have ever been provided in a traditional interview. That’s what makes this form of research so invaluable. There is much to be gained from a PaCER approach to answering research questions because, let’s not forget, your answers are only as good as your data. Thus, I believe PaCER is something that qualitative researchers ought to consider because it could be something we could highly benefit from.
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