Is ‘Dear colleague’ enough? Improving response rates in surveys of healthcare professionals
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Is ‘Dear colleague’ enough? Improving response rates in surveys of healthcare professionals

Maura Burke PhD student, National University of Ireland, Galway
Margaret Hodgins Head of the School of Health Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway

Aim To explain a strategy to improve response rates from healthcare professionals to a postal survey in the Republic of Ireland.

Background Response rates to surveys conducted among healthcare professionals have been declining steadily. This paper is based on the development of a response rate strategy to address this challenge.

Data sources A study in Ireland using a survey instrument that relied on the voluntary participation of managers and healthcare professionals.

Review methods Database and manual literature searches were undertaken across the literature related to methodology to increase response rates from healthcare professionals. The databases Cinahl, Medline, PsycINFO, Wiley Online Library and Scopus-V.4 were searched using ‘response rates’ and the terms: ‘response rate theory’, ‘survey response rates’, ‘increase’, ‘improve health professionals’, ‘primary care research’, ‘health care teams’, ‘health service research’ and ‘research participation’. Only English-language publications were reviewed.

Discussion Researchers must be aware of factors that influence healthcare professionals they seek to engage and so they can create research environments that do not preclude or dissuade practitioners from participating.

Conclusion The potential impact of poor response rates is a concern for healthcare researchers. Research-based practice is central to improving the quality of health care. Response-rate strategies can enhance research.

Implications for research/practice Nurse researchers as part of the broader health research community need to consider potential response rates at the research design stage. Response rate strategies should be developed and outlined as part of their overall research proposal and study reports.

Nurse Researcher. 23, 1, 8-15. doi: 10.7748/nr.23.1.8.e1339


Peer review

This article has been subject to double-blind review and checked using antiplagiarism software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 21 July 2014

Accepted: 27 March 2015

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