Methodology statement



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A Routine Check-up

Ethnographic Essay with Methodology Statement

Ben Kon


Penn State University

Methodology statement:

I chose to do my research and field work at my dad’s office in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. I thought that this field site would be a good choice for me because I knew that there would be a lot of information that I could use for my research.

One reason why I believed that this field site a good choice was because I knew that there would be a variety of different people from different social classes. My dad’s office is the only private doctor’s office in Tunkhannock. My dad’s office is the only place in Tunkhannock where people with non-serious illness can go to get a checkup.

Another reason why I chose my dad’s office is that it is not a very formal place. My dad loves to fish and hunt and so do most of his patients. One thing that I noticed during my research at my dad’s office was that my dad seemed to have a much more personal bond to his patients then most doctors. It seemed that my dad created an environment where people can share their personal interests and beliefs. This environment made it easier for me to interact with the patients. I also feel that most of my dad’s patients were willing to tell me more about their personal lives because of the environment.

The last reason why I chose my dad’s office for my field site is because I spent a lot of my early childhood there. I remember taking a van from my old elementary in Dallas all the way to Tunkhannock. I remember sitting in his office and talking to the patients that where sitting in the waiting room. My grandmother also used to be sectary there and I remember sitting in the office and talking to her. I feel that the true reason why I chose my dad’s office was because I wanted to get a new perspective on a place where I spent a lot of my childhood.

Themes:

Throughout my research there were a couple themes that came up. The first and most observes theme that came up was family. As I mention early I spent a lot of my early childhood in the office. I believe that the office was a place where I could bond with my grandmother and dad.

Another theme that came up during my observation was patient care. I noticed that my dad would talk a lot about patient care. I think that in order to be a good doctor you have to really care about the patient. I honestly believe that medical field is all about patient care. These are a couple themes that came up during my research.
During my research at my dad’s office I would follow a procedure in order to make sure that the information I gather would not be skewed in any particular direction. The first step that I took in to gather my research was to visit my dad’s office every Monday and Thursday at 7:30 in the morning and would stay till around 9 am. I choice this time because it was around the time that my dad’s office opened. I also wanted to be the first person other than my dad to be in the office. I decided to visit the office twice a week because I wanted to get a good sample size.

The next step in my procedure was to sit in the office and gather information from primary sources. I figured it would be easier to gather information about this subculture from people who are a part of it rather than just reading about it online. During this step I decided that I would try to create a balance between listening and talking. I did this by sometimes taking a passive approach and an active approach. During my passive approach I would sit down and focus more on the setting or “vibes” of the office. I would focus on people’s body language or I would focus on the characteristics of the office. During my active approach I would make an effort to find out information about patients. I would attempt to have conservations with them about why they were in the office or how they felt about health care.

The last step of my procedure was to not tell anyone that I was related to my dad. I took this approach for a two main reasons. The first reason why I did this was because I did not want people to treat or look at me different. I feel that if I told the patients I was Dr. Kon’s son that they would treat me different or would skew their response. The other reason was because I wanted to try and get an insider view of being a patent in my dad’s office.

Introduction

My dad has been practicing medicine for around twenty years now. My dad went to medical school at The University of Kanas Medical School in Kanas City. Once my dad graduated he came back to Northeastern Pennsylvania and began his residency at Geisinger hospital in Wilkes-Barre. My dad finished up his residency twenty years ago and decided that he wanted to open up his own office. My dad then decided to open his own office in Tunkhannock Pennsylvania. My dad had to open his office in Tunkhannock because one of the stipulations of him leaving Genisinger was that he could not practice medicine with in a twenty-five mile radius of Geisinger and Tunkhannock just happened to be outside of that radius.

My dad’s office is located right in the heart of Tunkhannock and is right before the bridge that would take you to the square of Tunkhannock. The office is located in a little shopping center on the right. The office is located to the left of a shopping goods shop that sells a lot of hunting and fishing gear along with clothing.

My dad’s office is a very long and narrow and has a slender feel to it. Once you enter through the front door there is a rectangular waiting room, which is the biggest room in the entire office. On the left hand side you would find the check-in station which makes up about half of the waiting room. On the right hand side you would find around nine to ten seats where the patients would sit. In the middle of waiting room you would find a medium size table that is full of different magazines. As you walk further into the office you would come across a very long and narrow hallway. The hallway makes up most of the office and has a plethora of different rooms that range for storage to check up rooms. As you continue to walk down the hallway; you would find my dad’s actually business office along with another room that is used for storage.



Preconceptions

Before I started to perform research for this project; I had some preconception. One preconception I had was that I felt that my dad’s patients would not be willing to share personal information. I thought that I would have to really work to get information out of people. I had this preconception because I thought that when people would go to a doctor’s office that they would be quiet and very reserved. I found out that this preconception would be wrong. I found out quickly that people were willing to talk about their medical illness to some degree. I learned that all I had to do was take interests in the issues and stories.

Another preconception I had was that I thought a lot of my dad’s patients would be older. I had this notion because when I used to go to my dad’s office when I was younger I noticed that a lot of my dad’s patients were older. I found out that this preconception would be correct. The average age of the patients in the office was around thirty-five to forty and it seemed that they were mostly white male. However, there were a couple of exceptions to this trend. One main exception was that there seemed to be a decent amount of teenage mothers. Another exception was that there were a lot of older patients that were probably around the age of sixty-five to seventy. These patients seemed to be in the worst health, but this was not to surprising to me.

One positive preconception that I had about performing my research was that I knew ahead of time that I would not be nervous. I had a basic preconception of what to expect in the office and I feel that because of this preconception in particular played a huge role in my research. I did not have to worry about introducing myself to the employees and I felt very comfortable in my field site



Observations/ Interviews:

Throughout the semester and my research, I came across many different people and learned a lot about my dad’s patients. One patient that really stood out to me was Jim. I met Jim on February 22, 2014 during my observations of my dad’s office. Jim was an old man that was probably in his late sixties to early seventies. Jim went to a military hospital because he was not feeling well. While Jim was in the hospital the doctors told him that he had a very severe case of skin cancer. Jim was admitted to hospital right away and had to go under emergency surgery.

The emergency surgery left him with a huge scar that went from the left side of his head all the way to the right side of his neck. The military doctor told him that he would be lucky to survive a year and that he had six months at best. On the day that I talked to Jim he said that he had been cancer free for about seven months. Even though Jim had been through a lot the past year, it did not seem to kill his spirit. The first thing that Jim said to me was “That’s what I get for mouthing off to the old lady.” (Jim. Personal interview. 22 Feb. 2014.) This quote was in reference to the scars across his face. Jim dedication and spirit was something that I will never forget.

Another patient that I had a conversation with was Hannah. I met Hannah during my visit at my dad’s office on February 24, 2014. .Hannah was a lady in her sixty’s and she took a seat to the right of me. Hannah was, in essence, the icebreaker, and she was the first person to ask me what I was doing. I told Hannah that I was performing research for my English class at Penn-state Wilkes-Barre. Hannah and I then went on to have conservation about was social security and how the government was planning on cutting the funding to it. Hannah went on to talk about how she thought that the proposed cuts would lead to more seniors not being able to afford health coverage. These were some of the more notable patients and informants.

While I was performing my research at the office I started to pick up on some trends and habits about my dad and his patients. The first thing that I noticed was the demographics for the office. I started to notice that the average age for my dad’s patients was around thirty-five to forty years old. It also seems that it was predominately males coming into the office. I also noticed that almost everyone that came into the office was middle class. This did not surprise me to much because most of the people from Tunkhannock are middle class. There also was not a lot of racial or ethnic diversity. I noticed that all of my dad’s patients were white. I found this to be surprising because I thought that there would be some diversity among my dad’s patients.

One major trend that I observed was that a majority of people I would observe would come into the office around eight to around eight-forty five. It was during this time that I would gather most of the data for my research. I also noticed that some patients did not have a problem walking into the check-in station where Kim would work. I always thought that this interesting because at most doctor’s office people do not walk into this room, but my dad never had a problem with it.

Another major trend that I noticed was that patients did not interact with each other much. I observed that unless the patients would only talk to people that they know instead of starting up conservations with other. I was not too surprised by this because I feel that patients come to the office not to make other friends, but to see my dad.

Once I was finished performing small interviews with the patients. I decided that I would interview my dad for the main interview. I choice him because I thought that he would have a really insider’s view of the medical field. I did not want to talk to him as if I was his son, but instead I wanted to take on the role of an outsider. I wanted to ask him some questions that I heard from some of his patients and I also wanted to get his perspective on health insurance and the medical field in general.

The actual interview took place in my kitchen. I chose to perform the interview in this location because I wanted my dad to feel relaxed and comfortable. The first question I asked him was why he wanted to become a doctor. My dad response was that “he wanted to help people” (Kon, Raphael. Personal interview. 20 Mar. 2014). I then went on to ask him if he had any early influences that made him want to be a doctor. My dad repeated the same thing as before, but added that he knew that he wanted to be a doctor during his freshman year of high school.

My dad at this point in the interview started to tear up a little. I thought that this was rather strange and I started to back on the questions. My dad gathered his composure rather quickly and seems to be alright thought the rest of the interview. I still to this day do not know why he started to tear up. If I had to guess, I would say that the interview made him realize why he wanted to be a doctor.

Once we were done talking about why he wanted to be a doctor. I then asked him to describe an average day. My dad said that he usually starts around 5 in the morning and gets to the hospital around 7 am. My dad then goes to the hospital and takes care of patients that are the sickest first. He then goes around and takes care of his other patients. Once he is done with the hospital, the next thing he does is go to the office. While he is in the office he takes care of more patients. After my dad is done seeing his patients for the day. He then goes on to paperwork. The paperwork consists of most bills and making sure that all of the money is there and accounted for.

After we were mostly done talking about is daily routine I started to ask my dad some harder questions. I noticed that during my observation of his office that a lot of patients were talking about how in recent years that healthcare costs have been raising and that many of his patients were having a hard time affording healthcare. I decided to ask him if rising healthcare cost has led to a decrease in the number of patients he sees. My dad stopped for a moment to think over his answer. He then went on to say that he has seen a noticeable decrease in the number of patients due to healthcare costs. My dad wanted me to note that in the twenty years of practicing medicine he never turned down a patient due to not having insurance.

The last major question that I covered with him was about the Affordable Care Act. My dad said that he is not a big fan of the bill for a number of reasons. One reason why he does not like it is because he feels that the government will treat people like numbers instead of people. He also said that this was the government’s attempt at socialized medicine and he never was a fan of socialized medicine.

Overall I thought I could have done better job interviewing my dad. I feel that I could have asked my dad deeper questions. I feel that a lot of the questions that I was asking were not really diving into the sub-culture. Another criticism that I have about the interview is that I did not do enough follow up to certain questions. I feel that I could have planned out my questions better and I could have organized them better. In hindsight I felt that I could have done a much better job with this interview.



Conclusion:

Overall I thought that this experience was enlightening. I learn a lot about the patients that come into the office and I got a better insight into the medical field. I also enjoyed the conservations that I had with the patients. I feel that this project allowed me to come closer to my dad. In conclusion I really enjoyed this project and if I had the opportunity to do this project again I would do it.



References
Jim. Personal interview. 22 Feb. 2014.
Kon, Raphael. Personal interview. 20 Mar. 2014.

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