The Effectiveness of a Student Volunteer Program for Research in a Pediatric Emergency Department
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BACKGROUND: Emergency Department (ED) student-based research assistant programs have been shown to be effective in enrolling patients when the students receive university course credit or pay. However, the impact on research outcomes when university students act as volunteers in this role is relatively unknown. OBJECTIVES: The main objective of this study was to determine how often potentially eligible children were accurately identified by volunteer research assistants for enrollment into prospective research in the ED. We also examined the frequency of successful enrollments and the accuracy of data capture. METHODS: This was a prospective cross-sectional study of university student volunteer research assistant performance in a tertiary care pediatric ED between March 2011 and July 2013. The participant's primary role was to screen and facilitate enrollment of ED patients into clinical research. For each volunteer, we recorded demographics, number of screenings, enrollments, and data capture accuracy. RESULTS: Over five 6-month sessions, 151 student volunteers participated. Of these, 77.3% were female, 58.8% were undergraduate students, and 61.1% were interested in medical school. Student volunteers accurately screened 11,362/13,067 (87.0%) children, and they accurately identified 4407/4984 (88.4%) potentially eligible children for study enrollment. Of the 3805 eligible for enrollment exclusively by the students, 3228 (84.8%) families/children consented and completed all study procedures. Furthermore, students correctly entered 11,660/12,567 (92.8%) data points. CONCLUSIONS: Utilizing university student volunteers to facilitate research enrollment in the ED is effective and allows for the capture of a high percentage of potentially eligible patients into prospective clinical research studies.