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Educational impact and recommendations from implementation of student-led clinical trial recruitment: a mixed-methods study
  1. Aya M Riad1,
  2. William A Cambridge1,
  3. David Henshall1,
  4. Heather McAdam1,
  5. Thomas M Drake1,
  6. Cameron J Fairfield1,2,
  7. Stephen R Knight1,2,
  8. Alessandro Sgrò1,
  9. Catherine Shaw1,2,
  10. James C Glasbey3,
  11. Mark A Potter4,
  12. Ewen M Harrison1,2,
  13. Kenneth A McLean1,2
  1. 1Department of Clinical Surgery, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2Center for Medical Informatics, The University of Edinburgh Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery, University of Birmingham Institute of Translational Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4Colorectal Unit, University of Edinburgh Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kenneth A McLean, The University of Edinburgh Department of Clinical Surgery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, UK; kmclean2{at}


Medical students have an essential role in medical research, yet often lack opportunities for involvement within randomised trials. This study aimed to understand the educational impact of clinical trial recruitment for medical students. Tracking wound infection with smartphone technology (TWIST) was a randomised controlled trial that included adult patients undergoing emergency abdominal surgery across two university teaching hospitals. All recruiters underwent prerecruitment training based on ‘Generating Student Recruiters for Randomised Trials’ principles, and completed prerecruitment and postrecruitment surveys. Respondent agreement with statements were assessed using 5-point Likert scales (from 1 (‘strongly disagree’) to 5 (‘strongly agree’)). Quantitative data were analysed using paired t-tests to compare differences pre-involvement and post-involvement. Thematic content analysis was performed on free-text data to generate recommendations for future student research involvement. Of 492 patients recruited to TWIST between 26 July 2016 and 4 March 2020, 86.0% (n=423) were recruited by medical students. Following introduction of student co-investigators (n=31), the overall monthly recruitment rate tripled (4.8–15.7 patients). 96.8% of recruiters (n=30/31) completed both surveys, and all respondents reported significant improvement in clinical and academic competencies. Three higher-level thematic domains emerged from the qualitative analysis: (1) engagement, (2) preparation and (3) ongoing support. Student recruitment in clinical trials is feasible and accelerates recruitment to clinical trials. Students demonstrated novel clinical research competencies and increased their likelihood of future involvement. Adequate training, support and selection of suitable trials are essential for future student involvement in randomised trials.

  • surgery
  • statistics & research methods
  • medical education & training

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  • AMR and WAC are joint first authors.

  • Twitter @ayamriad, @William_ArnoldC, @DavidHenshall_, @c_j_fairfield, @AlessandroSgr1, @kennethmclean92

  • Contributors KAMcL and EMH conceived and designed the current study. MAP and EMH were principal investigators at each site with oversight for supervision and training with assistance from TMD, CJF, SRK and AS. AMR, WAC, DH, HMcA and KAMcL drafted the paper and all authors critically revised the paper for important intellectual content (AMR, WAC, DH, HMcA, TMD, CJF, SRK, AS, CS, JCG, MAP, EMH). Several members of the writing group (AMR, WAC, DH, HMcA and AS) all participated as medical student recruiters. AMR, WAC and KAMcL had full access to all of the data in the study, carried out statistical analysis and interpretation of data and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and accuracy of the data analysis.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.