Janelle Charles, San Francisco State University, iN Touch Research Assistant
One of the most challenging ways to recruit participants for a clinical research project is through cold calling. I’m certain the reason this style is compared to the cold is because first you must warm patients up in order to spark their interest in your project.
In order to be successful at engaging participants during cold calls, you should capture their attention during the first 30 seconds of the interaction. To do so, it is important to be cheerful, personable and relatable on the phone. Don’t sound tired or monotonous. Participants need to feel your excitement for the study in order to get excited. So, be lively! Once you’ve set the warm ambiance, it is easier to go in for the close and—for research assistants that have a multistep recruitment process—you may have a better chance at an opportunity of meeting prospects in person.
The first impression isn’t the only factor that can influence your success. You may encounter several other obstacles while making cold calls. Here are some cold calling challenges specific to our study:
- Protective parents: Most of our prospective participants are under 18 and the first step in recruitment is talking to their parents. Our strategy in winning parents over is explaining study details simply and clearly. We also make sure to emphasize their child’s rights.
- Language barriers: A significant number of our prospective participants live in Spanish-speaking homes. Our bilingual research assistants communicate study goals and details to parents in Spanish. We also employ the interested youth by encouraging them to discuss the project with their parents.
- Being creative with the IRB-approved script: When calling prospects, observe their responses to the script. If you are not successful at first, try to play around with your voice cadences and rhythm. You have to stick to the script, but make it fun!
Our team is currently in the process of recruiting. Here are some of our preliminary results:
Cold calling: We made a total of 29 cold calls to prospective participants. Eighteen either did not answer or were unavailable to speak with the research assistant; six refused to participate; and five agreed to meet with our staff to determine eligibility.
Clinician referrals: When the school nurse at one of our sites talked with the candidate first, we had a much higher recruitment rate. Of 15 candidates referred by the nurse, 12 agreed to participate. The remaining three are still awaiting follow-up.
Have you faced similar challenges when recruiting? How did you address the challenges you faced?