Exploring barriers to care home research recruitment during the COVID-19 pandemic: The influence of social media recruitment posts and public sentiment

Mariyana Schoultz*, Claire Mcgrogan, Clare Carolan, Leah Macaden, Michelle Beattie

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: Recruitment of care home staff to research studies is recognised as challenging. This was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated negative media portrayal of care home workers. Social media use has surged since the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns, offering a plausible approach to understanding the barriers to care home research recruitment and gaining insight into public perceptions of care home workers.

Aim: To utilise comments from two Facebook recruitment posts to: 1) gain an understanding of potential barriers to recruitment of healthcare workers (HCWs) in UK care homes, and 2) explore public sentiment towards care home research and care homes in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: This cross-sectional study analysed comments from two Facebook posts (available June-October 2021) advertising a separate study on psychological support for care staff during the pandemic. This study was situated within a larger investigation into the mental health and wellbeing of care home staff and employed both qualitative analysis and quantitative methods (word count and correlations between words used and between posts).

Results: Three themes were identified from the qualitative analysis: support, mistrust and blame. There was a greater use of words associated with support and negative emotive words in post 2. Post 2 comments featured significantly more choice words and first-person singular pronouns than post 1 which indicated a resentful sentiment from those who advocate freedom of choice and control. Discussion of mistrust towards researchers was most prominent in post 1 indicating the importance of relationship building between researchers and HCWs in UK care homes. With attribution to blame, there was a larger range of negative emotion words than positive emotion words.

Discussion and conclusion: Taken together our findings offer novel insights into why recruitment to care home research during the pandemic including the use of social media might be problematic. Social media is a useful tool for recruitment but should not be considered as a one-time input. Researchers should pro-actively engage with the study population from the start using co-design with resident and public groups to support recruitment and ensure these populations are accurately represented within research.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0303609
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2024

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