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Using Facebook To Recruit Pregnant Women for Research

Herbell, Kayla

doi: 10.1097/NNR.0000000000000353

Background An estimated 80% of clinical trials fail to meet recruitment and enrollment goals. Recruitment can be even more challenging when vulnerable populations are the focus of the study. This problem may be mitigated with the use of contemporary and innovative methods such as Facebook recruitment.

Objectives The purpose of this brief is to detail an account of diversifying recruitment strategies with the use of Facebook to recruit pregnant women into research.

Methods This brief was derived from a parent study that aimed to examine relationships among social determinants of health, psychophysiological stress, and mental health in pregnant women. A Facebook account was created in which the principal investigator (PI) sought permission and posted in private Facebook groups about the research study. All data reported and analyzed in this brief are frequencies of Facebook activity including, likes, shares, comments, referrals (i.e., tags), and participants enrolled.

Results Target enrollment for the parent study was met, with a total enrollment of 82 participants. The PI gained approval from 100% of the 61 private Facebook groups. Over 75% of the total sample was recruited in 48 days via Facebook. The greatest frequency of likes, shares, comments, and referrals by the recruitment flyer were generated from the sell/trade/jobs page. However, the greatest frequency of participants enrolled viewed the flyer in Facebook groups focused on parent discussion. Facebook groups classified as events, nonparent discussion, and miscellaneous were generally unsuccessful in yielding participants.

Discussion In order to decrease the time lag between research and practice, and to enroll more participants, innovative strategies are necessary. Although there is evidence that Facebook was useful in recruiting a sample of pregnant women into research, Facebook may also be a useful resource in recruiting other populations into research as well.

Kayla Herbell, PhD, RN, is Legacy Fellow, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing Case, Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Accepted for publication September 17, 2018.

The author would like to thank her dissertation committee members from Case Western Reserve University, Jaclene A. Zauszniewski, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, Susan Ludington, PhD, FAAN, Chris Burant, PhD, MACTM, Arin Connell, PhD, and Mary Quinn Griffin, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, for their support on the parent project.

The research reported in this publication was supported by the International Society for Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurses and the Foundation for Education and Research in Biofeedback and Related Science.

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Institutional review board approval was received from University Hospitals Case Medical Center. Approval was received on April 20, 2017 (IRB Number 12-16-02).

The author has no conflicts of interest to report.

Corresponding author: Kayla Herbell, PhD, RN, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, 2120 Cornell Rd., Cleveland, OH 44106 (e-mail:

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