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Recruiting care homes into research studies

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Recruiting care homes into research studies

Danni Collingridge Moore

Improving care in care homes is a national and international priority. I truly believe that a good quality evidence base is key to advocating change, and this isn’t going to happen without care homes being involved in research.

Danni Collingridge Moore

Thursday 15th October 2015

Over the past six months of running the PACE study I have gained some insight into what works and what doesn’t when it comes to recruitment. Most of the strategies that have emerged are things that could be planned into the study design from the beginning.

In the study design phase, it’s important to think carefully about the primary aim of the research and the types of care home that will need to be recruited to meet this aim. Will you need residential homes or nursing homes? Can you select care homes from one region? Do you need care homes of a specific size? The variation in care homes in the UK is huge, and if recruitment is low, it can be difficult to find a group of care homes who represent the range of care homes across the UK.

Approaching a care home can be time consuming, in some cases it takes five phone calls before the right person to talk to is available. Initially the PACE research team were sending information packs and any correspondence to care homes by post, but as the study has progressed many of the managers I spoke to requested to receive information by e-mail. Also, the turnover of staff is high in care homes; if you are contacting care homes based on information from the CQC be aware that the named manager may not be the current manager. The same goes if you are working with a specific care assistant or nurse.

Efficiency is key – I have not spoken to one care home manager who is not rushed off their feet. It is imperative to work around the care home and to make any research visits as non-invasive as possible. This may mean organising visits out of work hours or preparing as much paperwork as possible in advance. It also helps to be clear about whether the care home manager needs to be at a research visit; if you are going through administrative records there may be no need for staff to be on hand when they could attending the needs of the care home residents.

If you can, try to work with networks like ENRICH. Many of the care homes I have spoken to ask whether the study is approved or endorsed by ENRICH. Advertising through ENRICH has also added legitimacy to the research. It’s important that if you are asking a care home staff member to complete a questionnaire that you explain that their answers are confidential and that it is clear how their data will be used. In some cases, this may be the first research study a member of care home staff has taken part in, so it’s important not to assume that they know what taking part in research involves.

Finally, I think in any research study there is a duty to encourage research participation in the future. If your research study is the first one a care home has taken part in it may well pave the way to further research involvement. As part of the PACE study we included information leaflets and application forms for ENRICH in our introduction packs. This provided care homes with impartial advice about taking part in the study and it advertised the ENRICH research ready care homes network.

Danni Collingridge Moore
Research Associate, Research Student

Division of Health Research, Lancaster University