Enacting a theory of caring to recruit and retain vulnerable participants for sensitive research

Res Nurs Health. 2006 Jun;29(3):244-52. doi: 10.1002/nur.20134.


The recruitment and retention of research participants always presents challenges to researchers. This process is made more complicated when the research being undertaken is socially sensitive and the populations of interest are considered vulnerable. The purpose of this article is to illustrate how Swanson's middle-range theory of caring can be used as a framework for recruitment and retention for studies on sensitive topics that involve vulnerable participants. We provide an overview of the theory as well as illustrations from three separate studies that involved in-depth interviews with vulnerable participants. These studies included parents who had either experienced the death of their infant or were involved in life support decisions because of potentially giving birth to an extremely premature infant (22-25 weeks gestation).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / ethics
  • Attitude of Health Personnel / ethnology
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Black or African American / ethnology
  • Empathy*
  • Fetal Death / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / ethics
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / psychology
  • Life Support Care / ethics
  • Life Support Care / psychology
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Nursing Methodology Research / ethics
  • Nursing Methodology Research / organization & administration
  • Nursing Theory*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Patient Dropouts / psychology
  • Patient Selection* / ethics
  • Principle-Based Ethics
  • Research Design
  • Researcher-Subject Relations / ethics
  • Researcher-Subject Relations / psychology*
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology