A novel simulation-based approach to training for recruitment of older adults to clinical trials

BACKGROUND: The need to engage adults, age 65 and older, in clinical trials of conditions typical in older populations, (e.g. hypertension, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia) is exponentially increasing. Older adults have been markedly underrepresented in clinical trials, often exacerbated by exclusionary study criteria as well as functional dependencies that preclude participation. Such dependencies may further exacerbate communication challenges. Consequently, the evidence of what works in subject recruitment is less generalizable to older populations, even more so for those from racial and ethnic minority and low-income communities.

METHODS: To support capacity of research staff, we developed a virtual, three station simulation (Group Objective Structured Clinical Experience-GOSCE) to teach research staff communication skills. This 2-h course included a discussion of challenges in recruiting older adults; skills practice with Standardized Participants (SPs) and faculty observer who provided immediate feedback; and debrief to highlight best practices. Each learner had opportunities for active learning and observational learning. Learners completed a retrospective pre-post survey about the experience. SP completed an 11-item communication checklist evaluating the learner on a series of established behaviorally anchored communication skills (29).

RESULTS: In the research staff survey, 92% reported the overall activity taught them something new; 98% reported it provided valuable feedback; 100% said they would like to participate again. In the SP evaluation there was significant variation: the percent well-done of items by case ranged from 25-85%.

CONCLUSIONS: Results from this pilot suggest that GOSCEs are a (1) acceptable; (2) low cost; and (3) differentiating mechanism for training and assessing research staff in communication skills and structural competency necessary for participant research recruitment.

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Full citation:
Fisher H, Zabar S, Chodosh J, Langford A, Trinh-Shevrin C, Sherman S, Altshuler L (2022).
A novel simulation-based approach to training for recruitment of older adults to clinical trials
BMC Medical Research Methodology, 22 (1), 180. doi: 10.1186/s12874-022-01643-4. PMCID: PMC9238219.