The holiday season is upon us, and it’s a great time to reflect on what we have, how we can give to those in need, and what we hope to accomplish in the new year ahead. But it can also be a demanding time for both clinical researchers and trial participants, as travel, holiday stress and tight schedules often affect trials. Here are some quick tips for handling the holidays at your research site.
Scheduling for subjects and staff
As any seasoned clinical researcher knows, schedules for both staff and trial participants often become difficult to manage around the holidays.
It’s important to be proactive, not reactive, to scheduling conflicts and be upfront with employees about what staffing levels need to be maintained around the holidays. Likewise, if you’re a staff member, flexibility can be key to ensuring proper care for trial participants.
One way sites can accommodate participants is to extend hours, either opening early or closing late to ensure participants can fit visits into their schedules.
Also, some trial participants may want a break from a rigorous treatment schedule in order to focus on spending time with family. While it’s important to avoid out-of-window visits, research staff can make extra effort to provide as much time as possible between visits around holidays.
Planning for seasonal travel
In addition to winter holiday travels, the late fall and late spring months can bring a significant migration among your trial subjects. This is especially true for older participants, who are more likely to spend the colder months in the South. A study by the University of Florida found their state’s population fluctuates by almost 20% due to “snowbirds” (those traveling south to escape cold weather) and “sunbirds” (those traveling north to cooler climates in the summer months). If your organization’s location has a dense snowbird or sunbird population, it’s important to plan for the yearly migrations and make sure proper transition plans are in place when necessary.
The late fall and early winter months include holidays for many religions, each with their own observances. Beyond challenges in scheduling patient visits, you may also experience issues related to dosing, holiday diets/fasting, or a multitude of other concerns. Addressing these issues with subjects in advance can help ensure their safety and reduce stress for staff.
It’s also important to keep in mind pharmacies and other vendors’ schedules may be affected during the holidays. Beth Harper of Clinical Performance Partners, Inc. cites access to trial supplies and study drugs as additional challenges during the holiday season. Planning ahead can help ensure the subject is aware of potential conflicts that may affect his or her routine.
Lastly, sites should also consider the holiday season when planning for patient recruitment. Especially for sites with limited budgets and resources, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day may be a time to reduce your recruitment, as your message can be easily lost in the noise surrounding the holidays. Toning down your recruitment efforts can also free up your staff to address the patient-centric challenges listed above.
Does your site have any strategies to stay ahead during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below. For great tips on building a successful site and growing your study pipeline, click below to download our eBook.