One size does not fit all – overcoming barriers to participant recruitment in qualitative research
Evidence and practice    

One size does not fit all – overcoming barriers to participant recruitment in qualitative research

Dawn Perez PhD candidate, Western Sydney University, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia
Gillian Murphy Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia
Lesley Wilkes Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, Western Sydney University, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia
Kath Peters Associate professor, Western Sydney University, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia

Why you should read this article:
  • To gain an insight into recruitment barriers and challenges faced by qualitative researchers

  • To explore possible solutions for researchers who are having difficulties in recruiting participants for studies exploring topics of a sensitive nature

  • To understand the traditional and contemporary recruitment methods which can be applied to qualitative research studies

Background It can be challenging to recruit participants for qualitative research. Recruitment can be affected by factors such as systemic barriers, as well as potential participants being reluctant to enrol in research they view as time-consuming and burdensome – particularly research exploring sensitive topics.

Aim To analyse and describe the implementation of multiple recruitment strategies used to overcome the recruitment barriers in a qualitative study exploring the use of physical restraints during mechanical ventilation in intensive care.

Discussion Recruitment strategies that are helpful for one study may not be successful in another. Qualitative researchers may face many recruitment challenges specific to the contexts of their studies. Overcoming these challenges can be costly, time-consuming and often frustrating, so it is important that researchers develop qualities and skills that enable them to navigate these barriers.

Conclusion Nurse researchers must consider the contexts of their target populations and tailor their recruitment strategies to the populations’ needs. They must also be flexible, innovative and persistent in their approach, despite the challenges they face.

Implications for practice This paper provides insights into the recruitment barriers faced during a qualitative study and possible solutions. These insights can guide nurse researchers facing similar challenges in qualitative research.

Nurse Researcher. 30, 1, 24-30. doi: 10.7748/nr.2022.e1815


Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared


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