Fear, Vulnerability, and Sacrifice as Factors in ED Use: Ethnographic Research Methods and their Insights

Ethnographic research and social analyses in healthcare settings have long been valued, however their use is not widespread. Qualitative research about patient-centered care makes patients the experts, and providers, policy makers and administrators the students. In this presentation, I discuss a 2015 case study of a 51-year-old low-income Philadelphia man who had two ED visits for evaluation of frequent headaches. While current popular and policy discourses emphasize crowded EDs and ED “overuse,” this project locates health-seeking behavior within a context of this man’s social and medical history. The findings shed light on the impact of social roles on behavior as well as institutional barriers to care.

As a medical anthropologist, Dr. Hudgins’ work takes her into health clinics, maternity wards and emergency rooms. Whether working with debt-bonded sex workers in a Cambodian brothel village, Philadelphia ED patients, or in a trailer park adjacent to a fracking site, her work prioritizes insider knowledge to reveal health-related insights. Dr. Hudgins employ an inductive approach and qualitative methods to translate patient concerns into actionable data, resulting in peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, films, training, and gray literature. Clients include Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, Jefferson Hospital, Scribe Video, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF Cambodia, and UNICEF Vietnam.

The Innovative Discoveries Series, sponsored by the Delaware Clinical & Translational Science ACCEL program and the Christiana Care Value Institute, features informal presentations on topics relevant to current research and healthcare practice, led by knowledgeable and experienced presenters. There are offerings for researchers, healthcare providers, and community members of varying levels of experience.

These free talks are held Fridays at noon at Christiana Hospital but can be viewed from your home or office computer. Earn CMEs by participating in-person or online. Lunch is served and all are welcome to attend.

To see the full calendar of events, visit the Value Institute Events page or the ACCEL website, or subscribe to the ID Series mailing list.

Contact Sarahfaye Dolman at sarahfaye.f.dolman@christianacare.org with any questions.


  • Anastasia Hudgins, PhD