Exploring life history methodology in chronic illness: A study in Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis
Burke, T., & Patching, J. (2019). Exploring life history methodology in chronic illness: A study in Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 36 (4), 45-52.
Objective: The aim of this study was to gain insights into the lived experience of a chronic disease, Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). Selecting the most effective methodology to reflect the life span proved challenging. However, the life history approach proved to be a data-rich methodology for this study and is explored in detail in this paper as a qualitative nursing tool.
Setting: This study recruited participants through a state based Multiple Sclerosis organisation in the community.
Subjects: Thirteen participants living with RRMS were purposively recruited, ten female and three male, to discuss their lived experience. Participants were from diverse backgrounds and were at various stages of disease progression.
Primary argument: Ethnography and life history is an under-utilised methodology in nursing research. However, the life history approach was used effectively to collect data to explore the life trajectory of living with a chronic illness. Semi-structured interviews and Braun and Clarke’s (2006) method of thematic data analysis ensured a systematic, robust exploration of the lived experience of RRMS. The study developed eight key themes and over 70 subthemes, providing clarity into the experience of living with RRMS.
Conclusion: Employing the life history approach to living with RRMS reflected the ebbs and flows of life, themes intertwining and changing positions of importance according to life events, whether directly or indirectly related to RRMS. Life history proved to be an effective method to gain a greater understanding of chronic illness and although often overlooked in nursing research, may represent an excellent methodology choice for nurse researchers working in other areas of chronic illness.
relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, chronic illness, lived experience, life history, ethnography