Blog: A Bird in the Hand is Better than Two in the Bush: Observations about Data Collection

Blog: A Bird in the Hand is Better than Two in the Bush: Observations about Data Collection  

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Posted on June 18, 2013

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As the TREKK Needs Assessment Coordinator since October 2011, I have gained a considerable amount of experience teaching people HOW to collect survey data and HOW to recruit survey participants, but until recently, I had no experience DOING the recruitment in the TREKK sites. In June 2013, I had the pleasure of conducting my first site visits to Western Memorial Hospital in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Carbonear General Hospital in Carbonear, Newfoundland. The purpose of this trip was to complete survey data collection and begin small-scale qualitative data collection. It was a highly successful trip and I learned a lot - including how difficult recruitment is. Luckily, we had a guide.

Debbie Harnum, the Newfoundland TREKK Coordinator, was our key contact in both sites. When we arrived, it was immediately obvious that she had spent a significant amount of time building relationships with the staff and the managers in both hospitals. Her bubbly personality, her passion for people, her pediatric nursing background, and her interest in research ignited and fostered relationships that resulted in excellent survey response rates. These relationships also allowed us, virtual strangers from Edmonton, to successfully conduct focus groups and observations over short four day visits to each site. 

Throughout this process, I was struck by the feeling that it was never enough – that there were always more people to meet, to talk to about TREKK, and to include in our mission of mobilizing knowledge. While this urge to be inclusive and to maximize our participants lead us to meet some wonderful individuals and to have some fantastic conversations, it also gave us feelings of disappointment when individuals weren’t interested in the Needs Assessment or in research, period. As a team, we had great discussions about balancing resources to achieve our recruitment goals while at the same time staying within our ethical and financial boundaries. We debated how to reduce and even eliminate barriers to participation, while at the same time respecting individuals’ right to refuse to participate and even withdraw if they so chose. We were also able to talk personally about how we, as part of the Needs Assessment team, can get caught up in our passion for the project and our desire to achieve our targets – and we can forget to be thankful for the people we have met, the rich data we have collected, and ultimately the experiences we’ve gained, in pursuit of getting one more survey completed or one more participant for the focus group. It’s a fine line to walk.

But the beauty of building relationships, rather than focusing on numbers, is that the connection to these sites will last beyond the survey, beyond the focus group, and beyond the Needs Assessment phase. This is the true mission of our work – to create sustainable, long-term relationships that will facilitate knowledge mobilization and ultimately result in better outcomes for kids. And it is thanks to the hard work of all the TREKK Coordinators and Research Assistants over the course of the Needs Assessment phase that this mission is possible.

TREKK Team rescues lost pet cockatiel in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland

When we weren’t busy at the hospital collecting data, we were rescuing lost birds! We found ‘Peaches’ on the side of the road one day (surrounded by crows), so we took her in and made her a home while we tracked down her owner. We successfully returned the bird to her family on the last day of our visit to Bay Roberts. Who says research is boring?!?!

 Click on the pictures below to see how we met our friend Peaches.

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