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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Recruitment rates and reasons for community physicians' non-participation in an interdisciplinary intervention study on leg ulceration

Oliver R Herber12*, Wilfried Schnepp2 and Monika A Rieger13

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of General Practice and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 50, 58448 Witten, Germany

2 Department for Family-oriented and Community-based Nursing, Institute of Nursing Science, University of Witten/Herdecke, Stockumer Str. 12, 58453 Witten, Germany

3 Institute of Occupational and Social Medicine, University Hospital Tübingen, Wilhelmstr. 27, 72074 Tübingen, Germany

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2009, 9:61  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-9-61

Published: 14 August 2009



This article describes the challenges a research team experienced recruiting physicians within a randomised controlled trial about leg ulcer care that seeks to foster the cooperation between the medical and nursing professions. Community-based physicians in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, were recruited for an interdisciplinary intervention designed to enhance leg ulcer patients' self-care agency. The aim of this article is to investigate the success of different recruitment strategies employed and reasons for physicians' non-participation.


The first recruitment phase stressed the recruitment of GPs, the second the recruitment of specialists. Throughout the recruitment process data were collected through phone conversations with GP practices who indicated reasons for non-participation.


Despite great efforts to recruit physicians, the recruitment rate reached only 26 out of 1549 contacted practices (1.7%) and 12 out of 273 (4.4%) practices during the first and second recruitment phase respectively. The overall recruitment rate over the 16-month recruitment period was 2%. With a target recruitment rate of n = 300, only 45 patients were enrolled in the study, not meeting study projections. Various reasons for community physicians' non-participation are presented as stated spontaneously during phone conversations that might explain low recruitment rates. The recruitment strategy utilised is discussed against the background of factors associated with high participation rates from the international literature.


Time, money, and effort needed during the planning and recruitment phase of a study must not be underestimated to avoid higher than usual rates of refusal and lack of initial contact. Pilot studies prior to a study start-up may provide some evidence on whether the target recruitment rate is feasible.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN42122226.