When I was taking the course Clinical Practicum with Professor Cunningham, we talked a lot about the limitations we have as mental health helpers and the importance of self-care. Volunteering at a crisis hotline also helped me realized how different a conversation could be when you are using a different attitude or even a different way of wording. All of these skills equipped me to screen and keep up the study with new participants.
After a few trainings, I went to our coordinate site, South Cove at Quincy, to enroll participants. My first time doing subject screening was exciting and scary. I enjoy talking about our study with strangers and I enjoy the moment when they become interested in the study and agree to participate. Reaching out to women in the waiting room could be scary because I was not sure what their attitude would be or what kind of questions I would have to answer. My mentor went through the research assistant guide with me again and I asked all the questions that I was not certain about. She also offered a short orientation for me in the hospital and introduced me as the new research assistant to all the doctors and nurses at the OB/GYN receptions. They were all friendly and encouraging, which decreased my anxiety a little. They have the perfect attitude working with patients, especially pregnant women who are relatively more sensitive and need support. I believe that they are trying their best to create the most comfortable and reliable environment for the women, which I should mimic as well. I found it really helpful to stay calm when I am smiling and talking in a slow and light way. I also successfully enrolled one new participant after I approached four patients.
It is difficult to not the rejections personally, but we have to understand our limitations. Not taking it personally does not mean that we should believe that we are approaching it in the best way, we should definitely always ask for more advice and try to improve ourselves when we don’t feel confident talking with the patients. However, we also need to understand that the patients have thousands of reasons for not wanting to participate in the study. It is possible that you have introduced the study the best way you can and explain how important independent data is, but the participant still says,”I am not interested.”
I spent a semester trying to not feel guilty about not being able to decrease the level of sadness of my caller while working at the crisis hotline, and I found that attitude really helpful when I was trying to enroll the participants in person this time. My mentor pointed out that I should pay close attention to their body language as well, and I realized that this is something I overlooked while I was talking to the patients. Since I was eager to introduce myself and the study to them, it could be possible that I was “invading” their personal spaces. That is something I need to be cautious about, and the improvement will help me in daily life as well.
Besides the first-hand experience, I am lucky to have a really friendly and supportive group. Led by Dr. Cindy Liu, the group has a lab meeting every Friday and we share a lot about the study updates and how to deal with all kinds of problems. Everything is back on track now and we are looking forward to more data and results.