The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2008 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

RESPIRATORY CARE STUDENTS AS RESEARCH ASSISTANTS IN A RANDOMIZED, CONTROLLED, CLINICAL TRIAL

Michael E. Anders1, Claudia Barone1, Christine E. Sheffer1, Talmage M. Holmes1, Donald Simpson1, Angela M. Duncan1, Katherine Bondurant1, Kristin Hines2, Whitney Ruff1, Marty Truesdale2



Background: Research expertise is essential to establish and maintain an evidence base for respiratory care. The American Association for Respiratory Care advocates advanced respiratory care education to provide highly qualified respiratory therapists with critical thinking abilities. The purpose of this study is to describe the functions and effectiveness of respiratory care students as research assistants in a randomized, controlled, clinical research study.

Methods: Four senior baccalaureate respiratory care students served as research assistants in a randomized, controlled, clinical trial of initiating smoking cessation in the Emergency Department (ED). Beforehand, the students completed a Web-based course in research methods, institutional education modules in human research ethics and the health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA), and approximately 20 hours of educational training concerning all aspects of the study. As research assistants, the students were responsible for assessing all non-urgent ED patients for tobacco use, recruiting and enrolling study subjects, obtaining informed consent and HIPPA authorization for research, completing an intake interview with each subject, opening a sealed envelope to determine each subject's study group assignment, distributing self-help materials, executing the study intervention, which was a faxed referral to a tobacco cessation program, and data entry. To assess the accuracy of data entry, a random sample of 20 percent of data entries was re-checked for errors.

Results: During the three-month study enrollment period, 295 daily smokers presented to the ED for non-urgent care. Of these, 23 met a study exclusion criterion, and the research assistants enrolled 222 out of 272 eligible patients (81.6%); 44 declined and six were missed. All subjects in the intervention group accepted a faxed referral for tobacco use treatment. Random check of the accuracy of data entry demonstrated an error rate of 0.005.

Conclusion: Respiratory care students performed in an exemplary manner as research assistants in a randomized, controlled clinical trial. Their experience may enhance their knowledge of research methods, as well as their critical thinking skills.