BACKGROUND: Although there is a great deal of literature regarding effective recruitment and challenges of recruiting specific patient populations, there is less known about best practices for recruitment of nurses as study subjects. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this article is to report our experience with recruitment and retention for a randomized trial of an online educational program to prepare oncology nurses to discuss oncology clinical trials with patients. METHODS: The study population included currently employed oncology nurses with direct patient interaction. There were three phases of this study: (1) qualitative interviews, (2) a pilot test, and (3) the randomized trial. Phase 3 was rolled out in five waves of recruitment. The distinct phases of the study-and the gradual roll out of recruitment during Phase 3-allowed us to test and refine our recruitment and retention methods for the randomized trial. Upon analysis of our response rate and attrition after the first wave of recruitment in Phase 3, we made several changes to improve recruitment and retention, including adding incentives, shortening the survey, and increasing the number of reminders to complete the program. RESULTS: The response rate was higher when we used both e-mail and U.S. postal mail solicitations. After the first wave of recruitment in the final phase, changes in our strategies did not increase our overall response rate significantly; however, the rate of attrition following baseline declined. DISCUSSION: Recruitment planning is an important component of successful clinical research. The use of the Internet for both recruitment of subjects and testing of interventions remains a cost-effective and potentially high yield methodology. Our research demonstrated several successful approaches to yield increased participation and retention of subjects, including seeking formal relationships with professional organizations as sponsors or supporters, providing meaningful incentives to participants, keeping surveys or questionnaires as short as possible, and planning multiple follow-up contacts from the outset.
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