What is it about?

Enrolling a sufficient number of participants is a challenge for many researchers, but especially for researchers who must rely on staff in clinical settings to inform patients/clients about participating in research studies. Even in clinical settings where the participant population is abundant, as gatekeepers, the priority of clinical staff is justifiably providing clinical care. In this paper, three researchers describe the strategies that they used to successfully engage clinical staff in studies conducted in three diverse settings and with different populations. To increase their utility, these engagement tips/strategies have been arranged by phase of research: early in study protocol development, the middle phase of enrollment and data collection, and the completion phase in closing a study.

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Why is it important?

The recruitment of an adequate number of research participants is not ensured in the context of clinical settings. Clinical staff members have rightly prioritised clinical care over research. Thus, researchers should be prepared to take an active problem solving stance with regard to the engagement of clinical staff members at all stages of research. Finally, it is vital that the researcher realise that recruitment challenges are a common problem endemic to clinical settings, and are not necessarily the result of inept planning.


In this article we stress three take-away points. First, be aware of the potential engagement barriers when relying on clinical staff members for subject recruitment. The naive expectation that the availability of subjects in clinical settings will make subject enrolment easy does not prepare researchers to assume the necessary problem solving stance. Second, the strategies described here provide researchers with possible solutions, distilled from the experiences of three researchers recruiting for very different US studies. Third, recruitment challenges are a common problem endemic to some clinical settings, and not always the result of inept planning. Adopting this perspective can inoculate the researcher against feelings of failure and support the essential problem solving approach. Although this article was written from the perspective of nursing research faculty conducting studies in three different US settings, we believe the strategies would also be of benefit to researchers in international contexts.

Lisa Segre
University of Iowa

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Strategies to engage clinical staff in subject recruitment, Journal of Research in Nursing, November 2010, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1744987110387475.
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