Exploring the Experiences of Health Workers Recruiting for Clinical Trials in Mental Health
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Most clinical trials fail to recruit the planned number of research participants, thus leading to underpowering of trials and sometimes outright failure of the studies. Recruitment for clinical research in mental health is often conducted by front-line mental health workers because they have direct contact with patients on a daily basis. The main objective of this study was to examine the recruitment experiences of mental health workers to identify and explore enablers and barriers to the recruitment of study participants. The secondary objective was to identify strategies for improving recruitment to mental health trials. The final objective was to identify strategies to improve mental health workers’ engagement in mental health trials (in order to increase recruitment). If mental health workers are not engaged and active in recruitment activities, then recruitment may be less effective, and the trials may not be able to proceed as planned. The participants recruited for the current study were mental health workers involved in recruitment for mental health clinical trials. An interview guide was developed to conduct semi-structured qualitative interviews. Qualitative descriptive methodology was used to guide data collection. Data from the transcribed telephone interviews were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Four different types of enablers and barriers to recruiting for mental health trials were produced from the data, through the process of thematic analysis: health worker-related enablers and barriers (e.g., the attitudes, beliefs, and expectancies of health workers regarding mental health trials), participant-related enablers and barriers (e.g., ease of access for participants), study design-related enablers and barriers (e.g., inclusive eligibility criteria), and collaboration-related enablers and barriers (e.g., regular visits from the research team). Enablers and barriers also vary depending on the type of research trial being recruited for (e.g., e-mental health trials vs face-to-face mental health trials). Findings aligned with previous research on enablers and barriers to recruitment that had been investigated in trials looking at interventions for a variety of physical health conditions. They revealed insights into how health workers can most effectively be involved and engaged in recruitment for mental health clinical trials.