Since recently, alternative and complementary therapies have been making their way into medical science. The present article reports on one of many research studies that aim to contribute to the body of knowledge regarding complementary therapy for patients with cancer. Specifically, the authors focused on photographic art therapy, its impact on cancer patients, and their preferences with regards to photography viewing. The findings suggest that viewing photographic art is enjoyable for the majority of patients and that most of the preference for a certain category of photographs is driven by their psychophysical and psychological features, as well as the patients’ individual differences and their mood. The purpose of the present paper is to review the article, comment on the authors’ methods and findings, and evaluate the impact of this study on nursing practice.
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The study addressed several research questions. However, the main question was “What category of photographs do cancer patients prefer in particular?” (Hanson, Schroeter, Hanson, Asmus, & Grossman, 2013). The question is rather specific and implies the need to identify a particular category of pictures that would be appealing to the vast majority of patients. Other research questions addressed general attitudes to photographs, rejected picture categories, and preferred delivery formats. Therefore, research questions set by the study largely shape its application to nursing practice, as the results can be used to support decoration choices in nursing homes and hospitals for cancer patients.
The authors used a quantitative design, focusing on a single group of participants in an attempt to explore and describe their attitudes to photography viewing. The choice of design somewhat contrasts the aims of the study, as a quantitative design does not allow for investigating individual opinions and experiences in depth (Parahoo, 2014). This is the key weakness of quantitative research design. Also, quantitative research requires a large sample of participants and is thus more difficult to implement. However, it also has some benefits. Firstly, the results of qualitative research can be generalized to other populations, as they include statistical data and the sample is usually quite large, which is probably the main reason as to why the authors used this design in the study(Parahoo, 2014). Moreover, quantitative research presents a lower risk of bias because quantitative data is objective and can be verified (Parahoo, 2014). Nevertheless, despite the strengths of the chosen research design, a qualitative design would be more appropriate to review the participants’ experiences and attitudes.
The sample included 44 men and 36 women aged between 19 and 85 years old who have been diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized for treatment. The total sample size is 80, which is too small for the study. First of all, it would not allow generalizing results to other populations. Secondly, it might not be enough to determine statistically significant trends and correlations. Another possible gap of the chosen sample is that it included participants of all ages. As age can impact people’s attitudes to art, it would be useful to focus on a particular age group in the study.
The study was collected using a computerized online survey tool, which included the Visual Arts Research Survey. Data collectors included RNs who worked in a different unit of the hospital. The authors of the study addressed some ethical considerations, including patients’ privacy, confidentiality, and informed consent. There were no significant gaps in the process of data collection.
The study had several significant limitations. First of all, the research design chosen by the authors was inconsistent with the goals of the study. The authors attempted to address patients’ experiences with and attitudes to art in order to enable health professionals to make informed decisions about complementary therapy. Nevertheless, quantitative research design does not provide sufficient insight into the participants’ views, thus limiting the possibility of addressing all of the research questions. Besides, the choice of data collection tool was also a major limitation. The online survey produced by the researchers was rather small and did not allow the participants to leave comments or clarifications about their answers. Overall, a mixed-method study using a combination of surveys and interviews for data collection would be a more appropriate option for this research. Where surveys and quantitative analysis would provide sufficient scope, qualitative data would offer insight into the participants’ experiences, which were the primary focus of the research.
Another significant limitation was the chosen sample and its structure. Firstly, the authors recruited participants from one hospital, which limited the size of the sample. As noted by Parahoo (2014), the goal of quantitative research is to allow for the generalization of results. With a sample size of 80 persons who were all recruited from a single facility, the research fails to provide sufficient scope to generalize results to other populations. This limits the possibility of applying the study to practice, as the results could be different from the present research. Secondly, the authors included patients from all age groups, which affected the validity of the results. Age is an essential factor that influences our attitudes to art, which is why it was crucial to control for age differences when analyzing responses.
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The third limitation of the study is the written report produced by the authors. Although it appears to be fairly structured and comprehensive, the sections devoted to theoretical framework and discussion of results are rather concise, which impairs the analysis of results and their presentation. Including more information about past research on the topic, as well as discussing the results and their meaning to cancer care in detail, would strengthen the article and improve its value for contemporary nursing practice.
Findings of the Study
As a result of data analysis, the authors found that 96% of the participants enjoyed viewing the photographs (Hanson et al., 2013). The most popular category of photos was landscape (28%), followed by animals (15%) and people (14%). The authors also noted the influence of individual character differences and mood on the patients’ attitudes to pictures. Overall, the findings respond to all of the research questions identified in the study. However, they fail to offer enough depth and cannot be generalized to other populations. The credibility of the findings is mediocre. Although the researchers used quantitative data, which is considered to be rather reliable, they fail to address several significant concerns, which affects the credibility of the study.
Summary and Conclusions
All in all, the present study fits into the recent trend of exploring alternative and complementary therapies. The study attempted to raise vital questions and could be applied to nursing practice if carried out properly. In particular, the authors addressed the question of “What category of photographs do cancer patients prefer in particular?” and found that landscape photographs were the most appealing to the participants. However, there are significant concerns associated with the design of the study that affects its credibility and makes it impossible to generalize the findings to other populations. The results of the study serve to answer the research questions specified by researchers but do not offer enough depth or insight into the issue. Although the study cannot be used in practice due to design failures, it is possible to apply it to guide future research, aimed at achieving a deeper understanding of the topic.
Hanson, H., Schroeter, K., Hanson, A., Asmus, K., & Grossman, A. (2013). Preferences for photographic art among hospitalized patients with cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum, 40(4), 337-345.
Parahoo, K. (2014). Nursing research: Principles, process and issues. (3rd ed.). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.