Researching and Respecting the Intricacies of Isolated Communities

Purpose: Conducting research in a rural area can be challenging for nurses for a variety of different reasons. The task at hand can be especially difficult when it involves discussing a sensitive topic, such as Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. This study was conducted to describe parental perceptions of the HPV vaccine in rural areas, while simultaneously describing a method for engaging in successful nursing research in rural areas.

Methods: A team of nurse researchers completed a planned process to first understand rural culture in southeastern Georgia, and then more specifically, the families living in these three separate counties. This process initially involved developing a connection and working relationship with key community leaders, such as school principals. Following this, researchers worked on establishing rapport and trust with local parents and research participants themselves. Qualitative methods were then used to collect focus group and interview data on parental views of HPV, HPV vaccination, and HPV-related cancers.

Findings: Results indicated that parents had little knowledge of the HPV vaccine in rural Georgia, including misconceptions that the vaccine is for females only. In addition, many parents continually voiced the concern that the HPV vaccine would promote promiscuity in their children.

Conclusions: Providing consistent, timely, and open communication with the community members was crucial throughout the entire research process. This focused approach with respect to total community, culture, and religious value is essential in conducting research. Future studies conducted in rural areas should focus on specific intervention points that improve Parental HPV knowledge.