Rogers, Frances (2010) Personal Experience of Sufferers from Whiplash Injury Compared To the Experience of Doctors Managing the Condition. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This qualitative study takes an interpretative phenomenological approach to understand the experience of whiplash injury from the different perspectives of patient and doctor. This was carried out in order to identify what psycho-social consequences might be experienced by patients as a result of that injury and to identify any implications for healthcare provision.

The research was conducted in two phases. During Phase One, eight patients were recruited through GP practices using a combined approach of retrospective and prospective sampling. Three semi-structured interviews and one telephone interview were carried out with each participant over a twelve month period. In keeping with phenomenological methodology, data were analysed using Template Analysis (King, 2004) and a set of themes relating to healthcare experience were identified: „embodiment‟ „experience of pain‟ „disruption to lifestyle‟, „making sense‟, „patient as expert‟ and „whiplash: a minor injury?‟.

During Phase Two, one semi-structured interview was carried out with eight doctors who worked in either the primary or secondary care settings. Data were analysed using Template Analysis and a set of themes relating to their experiences of treating patients was identified: „expectations regarding what patients will experience‟, „what patients do about their whiplash injury‟, „what doctors do‟ and „blame if things go wrong‟.

These findings show how the patient participants‟ physical and psychological experiences of their malfunctioning body had consequences for maintaining their sense of self and their ability to carry out their normal everyday activities at home and work. The doctors‟ own expectations of treating patients with whiplash injury and whether or not they trust the patients‟ account have illustrated three approaches: dismissive, reactive or proactive that have different implications for patients‟ experiences of healthcare. The study shows how the notion of „compensation‟ is implicated in whether or not the doctor feels able to trust the patient‟s account.

The implications of these findings can be seen in terms of methodological focus, general practice and policy formulation. Methodologically interpretative phenomenology provides a theoretical foundation that is, at the very least, equal to and able to challenge more „traditional scientific foundations‟ through its focus on meaning. In terms of practice and policy formulation, the findings have provided a unique insight that might prove to be beneficial for understanding the health care experience and assist in the provision of guidelines aimed at the treatment of whiplash injury. Indeed it is advocated that doctors adopt a subjective approach and that this is taken into account in training.

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