This article describes how writing personal research narratives during my doctoral research journey challenged my role as a health professional and my personal beliefs and values in fundamental ways. In qualitative narrative inquiry, the reflexive account of the research experience is a key element in conducting ethical, rigorous, and meaningful forms of qualitative research. However, as a novice researcher, I was unprepared for the unlearning journey I experienced during the research process. This uncomfortable experience cut to the core of my identity by dismantling unexamined belief and value systems that lay dormant and hidden from my everyday consciousness as a health professional. In the spirit of transparency, reflexivity and “good” qualitative research, this article presents an explicit account of my exquisite and sometimes excruciating reflexive research journey that profoundly changed how I relate and work with people. I believe health care professionals should adopt a narrative view of experience that creates the “looking glass space” to locate their own stories within the broader socio-cultural and historical context of their lives, especially in relation to their health professional identity. Exchanging diminishing dialogue with deeper dialogue honours both the complexities of young peoples’ lives and social worlds and encompasses socially-conscious methodologies of promise and hope.


Autoethnography, Qualitative Research, Narrative, Writing as a Method of Inquiry, Personal Narrative, Unlearning

Author Bio(s)

Gabrielle Brand, RN, PhD, is a lecturer in Health Professional Education at The University of Western Australia. This article is based on her personal research journey during her doctoral candidature at the School of Health Professions at Murdoch University in Western Australia. Ethics approval was granted by the University Ethics committee. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Gabrielle Brand at, Education Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Western Australia, M515, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley WA 6009 Australia or Email: Gabrielle.Brand@uwa.edu.au


I thank all the young mothers who courageously shared their stories with me, so that I could find mine. I thank my supervisors Professor Paul Morrison and Professor Barry Down of Murdoch University in Western Australia for their support and guidance during my doctoral research.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests. The author declares no conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Funding. The author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for research by receiving an Australian Post Graduate Award Industry (APAI) doctoral scholarship as part of a larger Peel Child Health Study research project funded by the Australian Research Council (ID: LP0776722).

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