The Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) has long been recognized as the gold standard approach to testing the efficacy of medicines. More recently the method is being used to test other health care interventions – such as surgical interventions, medical devices, wound management techniques and also nursing interventions.
For many years the RCT has been seen as an exclusively quantitative approach –possibly as a result of its use predominantly by medical researchers and laboratory scientists –schooled in a particularly positivist research culture. Conversely, qualitative research –emerging from the social sciences – has been adopted most vigorouslyby nurse researchers who see its value in investigating the experiences of illness and the social processes surrounding health, individuals and communities.
In this editorial we argue that qualitative research can enhance the quality, rigor and depth of an RCT –but at present this is an opportunity that is frequently missed. We further propose that not only can qualitative research enhance the design and conduct of an RCT it also provides an opportunity for qualitative researchers (often nurse researchers) and research nurses (often not actively involved in undertaking research) to work with medical colleagues to improve the quality of RCT design. Embedding qualitativeelements inan RCT also increases the opportunity for patients to be more actively engaged in the development of the RCT and also to provide the ‘patient voice’ within the RCT –an element that can be missing from medically oriented quantitative research(Johnson et al.2016)
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