The strengths and risks of being a parent and a researcher

The strengths and risks of being a parent and a researcher

The strengths and risks of being a parent and a researcher

Background: Six years ago, my son got a spinal cord injury (SCI). Since then, I have experienced feeling failed by the system in the early phase, safe in a system at a specialized hospital in US and lost in the wider system in my everyday life trying to coordinate support, care, and rehabilitation for my son. Based on my experiences, these are questions that I will try to answer with my research:

  • What is the role of parents of children with SCI – both in relation to the child and everyday life, and in relation to other systems (e.g. healthcare and school)?
  • What are the reasons behind my different experiences in different hospital systems?
  • How can we as parents use our experiences to bring change?

Methods: I plan to use quality improvement and co-production methods in which users and professionals work together to improve healthcare and social services. I will involve parents to children with SCI and other important stakeholders in the children’s life, for example health and school professionals, to develop and implement an innovation to create better care for children with SCI.

Result: I am in the beginning of my PhD and during this presentation I want to discuss my role of being both a parent and a researcher – the potential strengths and risks and how I can handle it in my research process. I also want to discuss and get input to some more general questions:

  • Is it a positive thing that people with experiences becomes researchers?
  • Is bias always a bad thing?
  • Is there an advantage to “add” more bias into research?

I have a feeling that I more often than others get questions about my combined role of being both a parent and a researcher. According to me, the design of our healthcare system “forces” me to take the role of for example a coordinator, nurse, and physical therapist in relation to my son’s care. Being a parent to a child with SCI is a kind of profession. Is there really a difference compared to other researchers conducting research linked to their profession? All researchers must engage in ethical decisions about how to work with the people they are researching, how to represent their stories and how to work with their own biases.

Summary: It is my experiences being a mother to a child with SCI that have motivated me to start a PhD, and learnings from my experiences have informed my research focus. I plan to involve parents and other important stakeholders and use quality improvement and co-production methods to improve the care for children with SCI. I need to take into consideration both the strengths and risks of being both a parent and a researcher. I want to discuss and get input to different questions about mine and other researcher’s bias and how it could be handled in the research process.


Presenter/s:  (, ) , Elin Salmiranta (Jönköping University, Sweden)