By Shelby Unger, ARCH Intern
Transitioning from one phase of life to another can be a daunting task. Upon completing my Master’s in Sociology at UCD, as many social scientists can probably relate to a similar experience, convincing someone that the sociology of health and illness is worthwhile in the work force is not necessarily the easiest task. Something I explored throughout my academic career was the ways in which social science and health can be fused together in practice. I had heard about ARCH through the Sociology department when an email circulated looking for assistance with one of their research projects. The idea of connected health peaked my interest and I immediately felt gravitated to the research centre.
Fast forward a few months later after finishing the master’s programme, I reached out via email to ARCH inquiring about any potential opportunities. My main goal upon leaving academia was to gain experience in my field and ultimately become a more well-rounded member of the social science world. Not long after, Brenda Reginatto, a research lead in ARCH, followed up with me regarding an internship looking at strategies for recruiting patients in connected health research. Due to my eagerness to be involved with ARCH, it didn’t take long after Brenda’s offer for me to jump at the chance!
The project examined the multi-faceted elements to recruiting patients in connected health research. Upon some research of pre-existing literature, it became apparent that there is no one correct method of recruitment in connected health. Along with this, it also became apparent that there are a variety of different circumstances in which a patient may be recruited for potential participation in a study. Although, the overwhelming consensus was around the amount of time and resources recruitment took up in relation to the research project as a whole. With ARCH in mind, along with all of this information, we developed a research question for the project.
What are the key elements to effective and efficient patient recruitment in connected health?
With confirmation that recruitment in general is a complex step and the methods depend heavily on the research that is taking place, we chose to focus on a specific pathway that ARCH often uses in research recruitment: the institution to the gatekeeper to the patient.
In this instance, an institution can be a hospital, a clinic, an organization, and essentially any setting where patients may be. The gatekeeper is someone that has a relationship with the patients, often times a nurse or a clinician. The goal was to create a concise and usable product that would be as applicable as possible to ARCH research projects. Due to the amount of literature around recruitment in health research, it was easy to see that we would need to get first hand experiences to really unpack and understand recruitment approaches that work in connected health. I was able to meet with multiple connected health researchers and even an industry member to discuss their most successful recruitment strategies. This was something that was so cool for me as it gave me a ton of exposure to the different backgrounds that people come from before finding themselves in connected health! From these conversations we were able to evaluate what it really takes to have a time and money saving recruitment.
As for the final, tangible product of the recruitment strategies project? The major thing I discovered by the end of the project was, well, there is no straightforward thing to do in order to have an effective and efficient recruitment process. The key word here is process. Recruitment takes a lot of planning, a lot of critical thinking about everyone involved, and it takes a whole lot of patience. Our final product was a compilation of everything that we learned from speaking with researchers and we were able to create a versatile document. The intention is for it to be used alongside the recruitment process, but to add to the tool as we learn from every recruitment experience so that each recruitment goes smoother than the last.
As I have only been exposed to academic research, working in ARCH was an invaluable opportunity to expose myself to something more applied. Going into the internship, I presumed I would be assisting on this recruitment strategies project. What I didn’t know was that the project was structured in a way that I was given an abundance of autonomy over what the focus was and essentially the direction of the entire project. The freedom on the project played a large role in how beneficial the internship as a whole was for me. As I stated earlier, it took no convincing when presented with the opportunity to be apart of ARCH. I knew it would provide me with very important knowledge and resources. However, the ability to run even this small project that would have a finished product that would contribute to the research in ARCH was an experience I can carry with me throughout the rest of my career.