After my fieldwork in Tokyo, I flew to Kagoshima, my mum’s hometown, to conduct my second observation and to stay with my mum throughout the week. I had contacted three nursing homes through my family connections, and the facilities had shown positive attitudes towards taking part in the study.
The staff (managers, nurses and caregivers) showed positive interests in my research and in possibly participating in the research, and they agreed to my presence during activities in the home, but the doctors’ reactions were not as positive. The allied doctors working for the facilities said that they do not verbally interact with their elderly patients except when undertaking tasks. ‘At elderly care homes, the condition of most of the patients is constantly checked and it is very normal not to make conversation with the patients. Just a few sentences are spoken, like “hello. how are you today?” When the patient replies “I am fine”, the interaction is over and the patients hardly speak to doctors either.’ Eventually, all the doctors told me that they do not make a lot of conversation with elderly patients within the facilities and I would not get suitable data, meaning that the prospect of their participation is very low.
I had an opportunity to meet a physician, the director of a large hospital, which was my final chance. He quietly listened to my explanations on the research. He recommended that I see a physician who is interested in the patient-centred concept and communication skills in a clinical context. He immediately phoned the doctor and I made an appointment to see him.
On Friday, I flew back to Tokyo, as I had some appointments. Friday night, I met up with my old teacher and classmates for the first time in four years, which was a really nice reunion. On Sunday afternoon, I visited a physician, and he agreed to participate in my research! Sunday night, I met up with my old friend, Jimmy, for dinner. On Monday (Week 35), I flew to Kagoshima again to see the physician to whom I was introduced and stayed with my mum. His reaction towards my research was very positive and he told me that he would be willing to help. I felt greatly relieved and thought that there are certainly some medical doctors who are genuinely interested in patient-doctor communication and academic studies on the issues.
Throughout my four-week fieldwork during August, I have met seven doctors and visited six clinics/facilities. I also met up with 18 friends of mine in Tokyo, which were actually the best parts of my stay!