Clinical Research Nurses should champion patient recruitment

Posted on by Leslie Gelling in Recruitment and retention, Research

The number of patients recruited to clinical trials grew from 208,200 in 2007/8 to 595,540 in 2011/12.  Despite this increase in the number of research participants, one of the main reasons for delays in producing new medicines and new treatments continues to be problems encountered in recruiting patients.  Such difficulties are frequently reported to Research Ethics Committees and are one of the principle rationales offered for protocol amendments.  Delays in conducting clinical research lead to delays in the development of new and innovative treatment options and ultimately it is patients who suffer because so many researchers are unable to meet the challenges of recruiting to their clinical trials in a timely manner.  It is clinical research nurses who could make a difference to the way in which patients are recruited to clinical research.

A report in The Guardian on 5th January 2013 ( described a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) study that demonstrated how poor many hospitals are at helping patients to take part in clinical trials.  ‘Mystery shoppers’ visited 82 hospitals in England and found that 91% didn’t have information readily available about the clinical trials happening in those hospitals.  Of those hospitals with receptionists, more than half didn’t know where to refer the mystery shopper for more information about clinical trials.  Hospital websites were also less than helpful despite 52% of websites having a dedicated research area.

So what could hospitals, researchers and clinical research nurses do to better promote the research they are involved in and to encourage patients to participate in clinical research?

Hospitals should pay considerably more attention to research endeavors happening within their own walls.  There is evidence to suggest that hospitals that are heavily research active provide higher quality patient care.  So why wouldn’t a hospital want to shout about the research its doctors and nurses are involved in?  Clinical research nurses should provide the crucial link between the research team and the hospital ‘front of house’.

There needs to be a shift in the expectations of patients.  They should no longer be surprised when they are invited to participate in clinical research but should be more surprised if this doesn’t happen.  Researchers and clinical research nurses in cancer research have already taken huge strides towards establishing such a climate but many more researchers still have a long way to go.  Clinical research needs local ‘champions’ who look at patient recruitment to research in its wider context and clinical research nurses are ideally positioned to take on this role.  These champions would not wait for suitable patients to come to them but would promote and encourage a clinical environment where participating in research becomes an established and accepted part of being a patient.

Huge sums of money are spent on clinical trials of new medicines and other clinical research but so much more could be done to encourage faster recruitment.  The most compelling reason to promote and encourage more effective recruitment strategies is that patients will benefit, in a timelier manner, from the outcomes of the research.  Clinical research nurses should be leading the way and making a difference to patient recruitment.

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