After my fieldwork in Tokyo, I flew to Kagoshima, my mum’s hometown, to conduct my second observation.
I had contacted three nursing homes through my family connections. The staff (managers, nurses and caregivers) showed positive interests in my research and in possibly participating in the research. They agreed to my presence during activities in the nursing homes.
The allied doctors working for the facilities told me that they do not verbally interact with their elderly patients except when undertaking tasks. A doctor said: ‘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.’
I had an opportunity to meet a physician, the director of a large hospital. He quietly listened to my explanations on the research and then 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. Friday night, I met up with my old classmates for the first time in four years, which was a nice reunion. On Sunday afternoon, I visited a physician, and he agreed to participate in my research! Sunday night, I met up with my British friend for dinner.
On Monday, I flew to Kagoshima again to see the physician to whom I was introduced. 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 facilities. I also met up with 18 friends of mine in Tokyo, which were the best parts of my stay!