Research in Gerontological Nursing

Special Focus: Recruitment Challenges 

Going the Distance: Overcoming Challenges in Recruitment and Retention of Black and White Women in a Multisite, Longitudinal Study of Predictors of Coronary Heart Disease

Jean C. McSweeney, PhD, RN; Christina M. Pettey, MNSc, FNP-BC, APN; Ellen P. Fischer, PhD; Alisa Spellman, MNSc, RN

Abstract

High recruitment and retention rates are hallmarks of scientifically rigorous longitudinal research. However, recruitment and retention are challenging, especially with older adults and minorities. In this article, we discuss strategies that have enabled us to retain more than 80% of both Black and White women in a 5-year observational study. To overcome challenges such as staff turnover and introduction of computerized record systems, we developed a time-saving handout, streamlined procedures for documenting contact information, and motivated site staff through weekly personal contact. We responded to problems with mailed privacy consent forms by garnering approval for verbal consent that allowed immediate response to participants’ questions. In addition to standard steps to minimize attrition, we encouraged ongoing participation with personal letters following interviews, “refrigerator reminders” of the next interview date, and “missing you” letters following missed appointments. We believe these and other strategies described in this article were responsible for our high retention rate.

Abstract

High recruitment and retention rates are hallmarks of scientifically rigorous longitudinal research. However, recruitment and retention are challenging, especially with older adults and minorities. In this article, we discuss strategies that have enabled us to retain more than 80% of both Black and White women in a 5-year observational study. To overcome challenges such as staff turnover and introduction of computerized record systems, we developed a time-saving handout, streamlined procedures for documenting contact information, and motivated site staff through weekly personal contact. We responded to problems with mailed privacy consent forms by garnering approval for verbal consent that allowed immediate response to participants’ questions. In addition to standard steps to minimize attrition, we encouraged ongoing participation with personal letters following interviews, “refrigerator reminders” of the next interview date, and “missing you” letters following missed appointments. We believe these and other strategies described in this article were responsible for our high retention rate.

Authors

Dr. McSweeney is Associate Dean for Research, Ms. Pettey is Clinical Assistant Professor, Research Assistant, and doctoral student, Ms. Spellman is Research Assistant, College of Nursing, and Dr. Fischer is Associate Professor, College of Medicine and College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas.

The authors disclose that they have no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity. This work was supported by The National Institute of Nursing Research, grant R01 NR004908-04A.

Address correspondence to Jean C. McSweeney, PhD, RN, Associate Dean for Research, College of Nursing, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 W. Markham Street, Slot 529, Little Rock, AR 72205; e-mail: mcsweeneyjeanc@uams.edu.

Received: April 20, 2009
Accepted: June 23, 2009
Posted Online: September 03, 2009


10.3928/19404921-20090803-01

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