Aim: This study aims to systematically review the qualitative research studying Emergency Medicine (EM) physicians in Emergency Departments (ED). Background: Qualitative research aims to study complex social phenomena. EM is a highly complex medical and social environment that can be investigated with qualitative research. Methods: Electronic databases of English peer-reviewed articles were searched from 1971 to 2012 using Medline through PubMed and PsychINFO. This search was supplemented with hand-searches of Academic Emergency Medicine and Emergency Medicine Journal from 1999 to 2012 and cross references were reviewed. The key words used were emergency medicine, qualitative, ethnography, observation, interview, video, anthropology, simulation, and simulation-based. Results: 820 papers were identified and 46 studies were included in this review. This literature review found that the reviewed qualitative studies on EM physicians were designed using the following strategies of inquiry: Ethnography, mixed methods, action research, grounded theory, phenomenology, content analysis, discourse analysis, and critical incident analysis. The reviewed studies were categorized into four main themes: Education and training, communication, professional roles, and organizational factors, and into 12 sub-themes. Conclusion: The strength of qualitative research is its ability to grasp and operationalize complex relations within EM. Although qualitative research methodologies have gained in rigour in recent years and few researchers would question their value in studying complex social phenomena and settings such as EM and ED, more rigorous design in qualitative studies are needed. A stricter adherence to one strategy of inquiry would yield more valid studies in qualitative terms concerning validity, reliability and transferability.
International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2012, Vol 3