Challenges of recruiting emergency department patients to a qualitative study: a thematic analysis of researchers' experiences

Delyth Price*, Michelle Edwards, Andrew Carson-Stevens, Alison Cooper, Freya Davies, Bridie Evans, Peter Hibbert, Thomas Hughes, Tim Rainer, Niro Siriwardena, Adrian Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Background: At times of increasing pressure on emergency departments, and the need for research into different models of service delivery, little is known about how to recruit patients for qualitative research in emergency departments. We report from one study which aimed to collect evidence on patients' experiences of attending emergency departments with different models of using general practitioners, but faced challenges in recruiting patients. This paper aims to identify and reflect on the challenges faced at all stages of patient recruitment, from identifying and inviting eligible patients, consenting them for participation and finally to engaging them in interviews, and make recommendations based on our learning. Methods: A thematic analysis was carried out on field-notes taken during research visits and meeting minutes of discussions to review and improve patient recruitment throughout the study. Results: The following factors influenced the success of patient recruitment in the emergency department setting: complicated or time-consuming electronic health record systems for identifying patients; narrow participant eligibility criteria; limited research nurse support; and lack of face-to-face communication between researchers and eligible patients. Conclusions: This paper adds to the methodological evidence for improving patient recruitment in different settings, with a focus on qualitative research in emergency departments. Our findings have implications for future studies attempting to recruit patients in similar settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Emergency department
  • Patient experience
  • Patient recruitment challenges
  • Qualitative research


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