Differing viewpoints around healthcare professions' education research priorities: A Q-methodology approach.


Yau SY(1), Babovič M(1), Liu GR(1), Gugel A(1), Monrouxe LV(2).
Author information:
(CG-MERC) Chang Gung Medical Education Research Centre, Linkou, Taiwan, Republic of China.
(2)The Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Level 7, Susan Wakil Health Building D18, NSW, 2006, Australia. [Email]


Recently, due to scarce resources and the need to provide an evidence-base for healthcare professions' education (HPE), HPE research centres internationally have turned to identifying priorities for their research efforts. Engaging a range of stakeholders in research priority setting exercises has been posited as one way to address the issues around reducing researcher bias and increasing social accountability. However, assigning individuals to single a priori stakeholder groups is complex, with previous research overlooking cross-category membership and agreement between individuals across groups. Further, analyses have pitched stakeholder groups against one another in an attempt to understand who prioritises what, and often fails to grasp rationales underlying priorities. A deeper understanding of who prioritises what research areas and why is required to consider applicability of results across contexts and deepen social accountability and transferability. A web-based Q-methodological approach with n=91 participants (who) from ten pre-classified stakeholder groups was employed with post-sort interviews (why). Sixty-seven Q-set items (Chinese/English languages) were developed from previous research (what). Participants were mainly from Taiwan, although international researchers were included. Q-sorting was undertaken in groups or individually, followed by post-sort interviews. Eighty-six participants' Q-sorts were included in the final analysis. Intercorrelations among Q-sorts were factor-analysed (Centroid method) and rotated analytically (Varimax method). Interviews were thematically analysed. Six Viewpoints with eigenvalues exceeding 1 were identified (range = 3.55-10.34; 42% total variance; 35/67 topics), mapping high/low priorities for research foci: Workplace teaching and learning; Patient dignity and healthcare safety; Professionalism and healthcare professionals' development; Medical ethics and moral development; Healthcare professionals' retention and success; Preparing for clinical practice. Eighteen rationales for prioritisation were identified: impact, organisational culture and deficit of educators/practitioners were most highly cited. Each Viewpoint, held by multiple stakeholders, comprised a unique set of topic-groupings, target study participants, beneficiaries and rationales. The two most prolific Viewpoints represent how different stakeholder groups highlight key complementary perspectives of healthcare professions' education in the workplace (efficacy of teaching/learning practices, application of knowledge/values). By illuminating the detail around each Viewpoint, and presenting an holistic description of the who-what-why in research priority setting, others wishing to undertake such an exercise can more easily identify how stakeholder Viewpoints and their epistemic beliefs can help shape healthcare professions' research agendas more generally.