159849 Making Meaning Together: An Interprofessional Study to Explore the Meaning of Conversation with People Experiencing Homelessness

Monday, November 5, 2007: 10:45 AM

Roxie Thompson Isherwood, RN, PhD(c) , Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the ways that social work and nursing students within a community-university partnership can engage with homeless people in meaningful conversations. In order to explore the nature of therapeutic conversation, the following questions were designed: What is meaningful (therapeutic) conversation from the perspective of clients/residents of a downtown shelter? What facilitators and barriers to therapeutic conversation exist? How do therapeutic conversations happen in both traditional and non-traditional settings? Data were collected through participant observation, interviews, and focus groups and thematically analyzed to answer the major research questions. Findings revealed both facilitators and barriers to meaningful therapeutic conversation. Facilitators included trust, recognition of personhood, respect, eye contact, body language, tone of voice, display of empathy, and willingness to listen. Conversely, barriers to conversation were identified as feelings of being prejudged, sensing a lack of respect, fear of authority and risk of punishment, intimidation by presence of academia and academic language, and fear of confidentiality being breached. In addition, the research project revealed several challenges inherent in engaging in research in a non-traditional setting with marginalized individuals. Building relationships based on mutual trust and respect over a long period of time is essential for the engagement of clients as co-participants in research. Engaging with clients in naturally occurring moments rather than in purely clinical settings offers rich opportunities for the exchange of knowledge. Study results have relevance to the ways in which we, as community health nurses, interact with vulnerable population groups. Although the study context focused on interprofessional students working with homeless people, project results stimulate important questions about the ways in which we engage clients in the community setting, especially those at the margins. This presentation will challenge our notions of what constitutes meaningful conversation with society's most vulnerable.

Learning Objectives:
Participants will have the opportunity to: - Explore the meaning of conversation within the context of people who are homeless. - Examine the nature of appropriate conversation with clients who are homeless. - Consider the implications of this research for clinical practice.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.