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Reflections on recruiting healthcare professionals as research participants: learning from the ONSPres study [version 1; peer review: 2 approved]

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journal contribution
posted on 15.09.2022, 15:26 authored by Sarah Browne, Siobhra Dooley, Aisling Geraghty, Patricia Dominguez Castro, Ciara Reynolds, Carla Perrotta, Lucy Kelly, Kimberley McCallum, Barbara ClyneBarbara Clyne, Catriona BradleyCatriona Bradley, Gerard Bury, Sharon Kennelly, Clare Corish, ONSPres Malnutrition Research Study Team
The involvement of healthcare professionals (HCPs) as research participants is essential to generate high quality evidence for enhancing health services and practice.  Research teams face many challenges in recruiting HCPs for research, and barriers and enablers for interdisciplinary research are not well described in the literature.  The Oral Nutritional Supplement Prescribing Malnutrition Research Study (ONSPres Study) examined malnutrition identification, management, and appropriate oral nutritional supplement prescribing in primary care in Ireland.  The ONSPres Study offers a unique view of recruiting HCPs for research because a range of disciplines were sought for participation in a mixed methods study.  The purpose of this open letter is to describe the experiences of recruitment and participation.  Sixteen general practitioners (GPs) were recruited to participate in one-to-one interviews, eighty health and social care professionals working in community care (including nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, and occupational therapists) were recruited to take part in 12 focus groups, and 31 GPs and trainee GPs were recruited to participate in an education programme developed by the study team.   Strategies required to gain access and reach HCPs differed between disciplines.   Professional networks enhanced access to HCPs working in practice and recruitment was slower and more tailored when those networks were less available to the team.  An interest in malnutrition, to assist in research, to advance patient care, and the opportunity for learning were incentives for the participating HCPs.  Limitations in the diversity of the sample arose, with a bias towards female participants and GPs motivated by an interest in the topic.  It is recommended that study teams collaborate early with relevant HCP disciplines so they can contribute to recruitment planning at project concept and design stages.  To enhance and incentivise HCP participation in research, dedicated time and acknowledgement of participation as continuous professional development is proposed.


Health Research Board in Ireland (Grant number: RCQPS-2017-4)



The original article and an updated version may be available on https://hrbopenresearch.org/

Published Citation

Browne S, et al. Reflections on recruiting healthcare professionals as research participants: learning from the ONSPres study [version 1; peer review: 2 approved]. HRB Open Res 2022, 5:47

Publication Date

27 June 2022

PubMed ID



  • HRB Centre for Primary Care Research
  • General Practice

Research Area

  • Population Health and Health Services


F1000 Research Ltd


  • N/A