What do volunteers for research studies do after finding a trial?

For many people, participating in a research study presents an interesting opportunity with many benefits to volunteering. While there are many types of clinical research, all with distinct goals and timelines, trial volunteers will follow a similar path when taking part. Read on to learn more about the process.

What happens when I sign up for a clinical trial?

The clinical trial screening process

After finding a research study that seems to be a good fit, the first step is usually a phone call to check eligibility. Questions over the phone will typically cover topics such as medication history, diagnoses, and other information that may pertain to the inclusion and exclusion criteria of the trial.

If the answers align with what the study is looking for, the next step is to undergo additional tests and screening at a clinical site. These in-person screenings often involve getting lab values, measurements, and other metrics that must be verified before enrollment is finalized.

The informed consent process

One of the most important parts of joining a clinical trial is the informed consent process. Everyone who chooses to take part in research will be provided with an informed consent document to ensure that participants understand the nature of the study, its potential risks and benefits, and what is expected of them during their involvement. Essentially, the informed consent document outlines all the necessary information to allow participants to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate in the study.

This is the perfect opportunity to ask any questions about the study, including visit scheduling, record-keeping requirements, and any other factors that may be influencing the choice to participate. The form will also spell out whether the trial is placebo-controlled, if participants can continue taking the treatment being studied if it is shown to be effective, and how compensation structures are organized. It’s important to note that even after signing the informed consent document, participants can still opt out of the trial at any time and for any reason.

Attending sessions and keeping records

Once participants complete the informed consent process they are officially enrolled in the trial and can start attending sessions and keeping records. Attending a clinical trial appointment is similar to attending a doctor’s appointment, except volunteers can expect to receive specialized care from experts familiar with their condition. Depending on the trial, visits may be scheduled over a few weeks, months, or even years.

In addition to attending in-person visits, many trials will have participants keep records in between their sessions so they can track progress over time. Volunteers will typically asked to share notes about side effects, take questionnaires about their quality of life, or wear a fitness tracker to monitor daily activities and vital signs. 

The follow-up process

Because every trial is different, the study team will be able to provide more information about the results after the research is concluded. Many clinical trial results are published in peer-reviewed journals that participants can access, but they also might individually contact volunteers once the results are finalized.

In many cases, individuals who participate in research are given the option to continue taking the treatment or therapy being studied if it has proven to be effective, even before it is available on the market. At any point during the process, the research team will be able to provide guidance on how this will be handled.

If you’re ready to start looking for a clinical trial near you, it’s easy to start searching for research studies in your area — just click the button below to begin.