Exploring the Application of Interpretive Description in Chronic Illness: A Scoping Review

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Research and theory for nursing practice


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Chronic illness is a complex condition that affects over one billion people. To develop a deeper insight of the needs of this patient population, interpretive description uses disciplinary knowledge as the source of understanding. This methodology is a pragmatic approach to research without focusing on a strict methodological directive. The aims of this scoping review are twofold, (a) to describe the findings of studies that have used Thorne's interpretive description to research chronic illness and (b) to discuss the application of interpretive description in clinical research. Thereby, showing interpretive description as a valuable tool to advance nursing knowledge and patient care.

METHODS: The methodological framework for this review was based on the Johanna Briggs Institute guidelines for scoping reviews.

RESULTS: To develop an understanding of interpretive description, it is essential to examine the results of studies which have applied the methodology. Our scoping review showed that researchers utilizing interpretive description identified four common challenges experienced by individuals living with chronic illness: symptom management, education and knowledge, supportive care, and cultural disadvantages. By demonstrating how interpretive description is applied, it shows how it can be used to understand and interpret clinical phenomena to improve practice.

IMPLICATION FOR PRACTICE: This scoping review demonstrates how interpretive description was used to develop knowledge about chronic illness. The premise of interpretive description is that disciplinary knowledge offers a sufficient foundation to develop meaningful research to support health practices. By approaching research from a disciplinary perspective, new knowledge can be discovered to complex health problems.

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ePub ahead of print