In our last column, we discussed the use of focus groups, or group interviews, in nursing and health care as well as some advantages and disadvantages of this specific methodology. In this column, we will review methods for conducting focus groups and discuss the role of the moderator or interviewer.
As specified in our April column, when focus groups are conducted for research purposes it is important to adhere to research methodology guidelines to maintain scientific rigor. When your purpose is not research, many of these principles still apply and should be considered when conducting focus groups.
PLANNING FOCUS GROUP SESSIONS
Conducting focus groups might sound easy; invite people to a meeting, ask them questions, and listen to their responses. If it were that simple, however, planning would be unnecessary. The success of focus groups rests with deliberate thought about and planning for each step of the process.
After determining each session's purpose, creating interview questions, and identifying participants, you should select a site at which to conduct the focus group. Before inviting people to participate, determine the meeting location, time, and date. The meeting space must be convenient and handicapped accessible and have adequate parking or be accessible by public transportation. Ensure the parking lot and entrance are safe and well lit for night meetings. Moreover, consider whether the space is appropriate for the discussion topic. For example, when discussing a negative experience that occurred in a hospital (eg, death of a family member), participants may experience too many distressing memories if the group meets in a hospital.
The meeting space should have a comfortable temperature (ie, heat, air conditioning), be inviting, and be comfortable with minimal distractions. There should be one chair for each participant, and the chairs should be placed around a table in an oval or round configuration. All participants should be able to establish eye contact with each other and the moderator. Each participant should have...
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