Dr Della Sadler-Moore School of Health & Wellbeing

Della is a Senior Lecturer in Nursing. She initially trained as a Registered Nurse in Wolverhampton, following which her post-registration career focused on Nursing within the Hospital General Surgery and General Medical environments. Della was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in 2009 having completed an ethnographic study into ‘The Role of the Registered [Surgical] Nurse in the 21st century NHS acute trust hospital’ http://wlv.openrepository.com/wlv/handle/2436/88795
Della is Programme Leader for the Master of Science in Nursing.

Della has held voluntary positions as co-ordinator of the historic narrow boat ‘Sagitta’, committee member and archivist for Dudley Canal Trust, and holds one of only four accredited position in Canal Costume with the Waterway’s Craft Guild  

Her current voluntary positions in relation to England’s canal network include Trustee and archivist for Stourbridge Navigation Trust and a member of the Historic Working Boat Group http://www.heritageworkingboats.org.uk/hwbg/

The health and wellbeing of itinerant live-aboard narrow boaters on the Birmingham Canal Navigations BCN).

Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) has 100 miles of still water linking central England with the rest of the country. The canals provide a medium for a range of housing, from luxury narrow boats with permanent / residential moorings in the centre of Birmingham to ex hire boats temporarily moored in isolated sections of canal surrounded by derelict industrial buildings.

Some live-aboard boat owners choose to continuously cruise the canal network, regularly moving around the BCN, whilst others just pass through the BCN as part of a longer canal journey. During 2012 stories came to light from itinerant live-aboard boaters which revealed worrying facts regarding access to primary and secondary health care. A review of the academic literature confirmed there to be no evidence base regarding contemporary health and wellbeing dimensions of canal life, particularly no published research where the continuous cruising / itinerant canal boater views and voices can be heard. This alerted me to explore the health and wellbeing dimensions associated with being an itinerant narrow boat resident on the BCN.

To explore and describe the health and wellbeing dimensions of being an itinerant live-aboard narrow boater on the BCN.

Research design and data collection
The research was set in the tradition of focused ethnography using Spradley’s (1980) three types of data collection; 1) Experiencing. Fieldwork was conducted at canal festivals and via walks along the towpath where boaters are known to moor. The fieldwork provided opportunities for discussion with boaters and an opportunity to introduce the nature and purpose of the research. Boaters were forthcoming as to their experiences regarding health and well-being, field-notes were recorded as soon after fieldwork to prevent forgetting. 2) Enquiring. In-depth ethnographic interviews were conducted using a broad set of questions related to health and wellbeing. Interviews were tape recorded and lasted between thirty minutes and two hours. 3) Examining. This involved gathering documented evidence pertaining to itinerant / continuously cruising boaters and relied on web sites and blogs. Key web sites (NBTA, KANDA and CRT) had alert facilities which were subscribed to throughout the research. Itinerant boaters’ ‘blogs’ were used where a boater made reference to their health and wellbeing experiences.

Recruitment of the sample
The researcher is known in the canal community as a volunteer in several canal arenas, which enabled access to the canal community and recruitment of the first four itinerant boaters. Each of the four then provided contact details for boaters so a snowballing approach was used to recruit a further eight. In total 12 itinerant boaters’ were recruited to the study over a 12 month period.

Data management
All data was imported into NVIVO and analysed using a content analysis approach generated as a framework for managing ethnographically derived data by Sadler-Moore (2009).

Early findings
The boaters were both male and female and aged 35 to 75 years, only one couple were interviewed. Their length of time as a boater ranged from eight months to twenty five years. The boaters homes were as diverse as the boaters, ranging from a forty foot tug to a seventy foot ex working boat, described by its owner as a living museum.

It’s a lifestyle ‘choice’
All boaters’ were asked at the beginning of the interview why they had chosen the itinerant lifestyle … a few extracts illustrate their responses …

I love this life … I like the folk … if I don’t like my neighbours I can move, and I have moved … you can’t do that in a brick house …

I see the stars at night … do you ? … we don’t create so much of a footprint, I use paraffin and candles  … I’m healthier than them on the bank … I’m always active … rain or sun …

Divorce … I had the boat for holidays, I left the home on the bank … I had the boat, it was natural …

No post-code – No care?
This theme relates to a boater always being ‘on the move’, for some they had no post-code because they had no permanent / home-mooring, for others, although they had a home moorings, they never used it so in reality they didn’t use their post-code on a daily basis. A significant number of the boaters knew the importance of having an address / post-code, so they had made provisions for this …

I use my friends address,

I use my mother’s address … when they move I change my address too …

It’s getting past the receptionist …

I use temporary registration

Some centres are ‘boater friendly’ …

I’ve boated miles to see a Doctor … even when I’ve been ill … I know they’ll see me there …

Sister Mary Ellen Hollowell Ward. B.E.M. 
Consultant Sister to Long Distance Boatmen and Families, British Canals. 1884-1972.

As the ‘Care on the Cut’ project progressed a search for literature related to the health aspects of being a canal boater repeatedly referred to Sister Mary Ward. Sister Mary had a surgery alongside the canal in Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire and she provided care to boat families who were commercially carrying goods on the Grand Union Canal. Analysis of the accumulating information on Sister Mary revealed very little about her specific nursing role and a confusing set of dates surrounding her life and work. This confusion led me to email David Blagrove a well-known canal historian who informed me he had in his custody three original and un-analysed Sister Mary Case Books. After some discussion with David an agreement was made to extend the ‘Care on the Cut’ research and a memorandum of co-operation was set up with The Friends of Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum of which David Blagrove is chairman to research Sister Mary.

Accurately and with verifiable evidence construct an account of the nursing work of Sister Mary Ward in the context of boater’s health and wellbeing.

Research design and data collection
This has been a historical piece of research conducted with Mr David Blagrove (Canal Historian) and Lorna York (Canal Boat Families Historian). Primary data was collected from a range of sources across the UK. The complex and convoluted data collection journey is reported in the August and November edition of the Stoke Bruerne magazine ‘Museum Matters’ http://www.friendsofcanalmuseum.org.uk/#/newsletter/4535444103

Based on early findings two ‘Sister Mary’ display boards have been created for the Friends of Stoke Bruerne Museum containing accurate information and a series of photographic evidence on Sister Mary. A second set of display boards have been on display in the National Waterway’s Museum at Ellesmere Port. The findings from this aspect of the research are due for publication in a book.                           

Picture 1) Della in her office with the newly delivered Sister Mary display boards
Picture 2) Handing over the Sister Mary display boards to David Blagrove and Lorna York on historic narrow boat ‘Sculptor’ at Stoke Bruerne