Attempts of a Participatory Approach to Helping Improve the Value and Appreciation of Geriatric Nursing in Germany - Looking at the "Pflege Wert" Project from an Action Research Perspective

By Nick, Claudia; Fuchs-Frohnhofen, Paul | International Journal of Action Research, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Attempts of a Participatory Approach to Helping Improve the Value and Appreciation of Geriatric Nursing in Germany - Looking at the "Pflege Wert" Project from an Action Research Perspective


Nick, Claudia, Fuchs-Frohnhofen, Paul, International Journal of Action Research


All collaborations can be characterised by power and participation and how those forces are distributed within the group. Action Research's distinctive feature is that 'ordinary' people are actively involved in the entire research process, as they are entrusted with tasks and take on responsibilities that are otherwise often reserved for researchers (Arieli et al., 2009, p. 265). In this sense, Action Research can be understood as "a democratic relationship, in which both sides exercise power and shared control over decision-making as well as interpretation" (ibid). In this paper we try to analyse the relationships and structures of power in a project that dealt with the appreciation of nursing services in geriatric care in Germany, so-called Altenpflege. Consistent with the idea of Action Research, the project was conducted by research partners and practitioners working in geriatric care. In order to take a closer look at the conflicts that took place, and to identify the role of communication in this collaboration of different personalities, three retrospective interviews were conducted. The project's reflection highlighted that an equitable dialogue between researchers and practitioners can unveil differences and conflicts and help to overcome them. With this paper we intent to encourage more Action Research projects in Germany by reflectively illustrating a successful project with its "ups" and especially its "downs".

Key words: power, participation, conflict, nursing, appreciation

1. Introduction

This paper is the result of reflecting the work that was done during the Pflege Wert project from 2009-201 1, and is written by the co-ordinator of the project, a human factors researcher, and a social scientist, who was not part of the project but who interviewed some of the other project members who did participate. Pflege Wert was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in Germany. PflegeWert means value of nursing/caring.

Even though PflegeWert had not been explicitly designed as an Action Research project, the reflection of this project wants to give an impulse for discussion within the Action Research community as well as within the German service science community on the stronger consideration of Action Research in the future.

Practically, our PflegeWert project aimed at exploring and improving the value and appreciation of nursing services in geriatric care in Germany. That means our project not only intended to analyse the situation of geriatric nursing but to actually help changing geriatric care's position of power in Germany through participation and dialogue. Therefore participation as well as power played an important role in this project. Since those factors also shaped our discussions within the coordinating committee, they will be analysed furthermore in this paper by the example of the conflicts that arose.

A dialogic process between praxis and science was the basis for the unfolding of socio-political effects in the course of this project. When it comes to this dialogic process, our project was guided by Werner Fricke's recommendation, saying that new knowledge, theoretical as well as practical knowledge, originates in action-research from the dialogue of scientists and practitioners (Fricke, 2013, p. 5). How this dialogue was cultivated and held within our PflegeWert project team will be described in detail later in this paper.

Reflecting on our project, we realised that we have mostly failed at initiating such a dialogic process with the geriatric nurses, who work at the participating facilities, as we mostly interacted within our co-ordinating committee, which only consisted of executives and researchers. So only at certain points of the project were we able to enter into dialogue with the nurses themselves, e.g. for the development of a concept for a regular "nursing success reflection talk" and at multiple public project events, where those nurses were actively involved in a dialogue with various people from politics and the public. …

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