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Open Access Research article

A qualitative assessment of implementing a cross-cultural survey on cancer wards in Denmark - a description of barriers

Maria Kristiansen*, Amani Hassani and Allan Krasnik

Author Affiliations

Section for Health Services Research, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2010, 10:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-10-4

Published: 12 January 2010



Research into migration and health is often confronted with methodological challenges related to the identification of migrants in various settings. Furthermore, it is often difficult to reach an acceptable level of participation among migrant groups in quantitative research. The aim of this study is to conduct a qualitative assessment of the barriers encountered during the implementation of a cross-cultural survey on cancer wards in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Participant observation at the involved wards was combined with qualitative interviews with selected nurses and informal talks with a wider group of nurses at the wards involved in the survey.


One possible way to increase the participation of migrant patients in research is through the involvement of the hospital staff in contact with patients. Involvement of nurses on cancer wards in the delivery of questionnaires to patients was challenging, despite a general willingness to participate in psychosocial research. The main difficulties were found to be both external (policy changes, general strike among nurses) and internal on the wards (heavy workload, lack of time, focus on medical aspects of cancer rather than psychosocial aspects). These factors interacted and resulted in a lower priority being given to psychosocial research. Further, nurses expressed a feeling that researchers in general did not recognize their contribution in research, making it more difficult to engage fully in studies.


Involving hospital staff in research is feasible but not straightforward. Awareness of the influence of possible external and internal factors and efforts to deal with these factors are fundamental to the successful implementation of psychosocial cancer research in a hospital setting.