Reflections of a novice clinician researcher – challenges and pitfalls

 M Castle1 & B Winzer2

1Northeast Heath Wangaratta, 35-47 Green Street, Wangaratta, Victoria, 3677,
2Northeast Heath Wangaratta, 35-47 Green Street, Wangaratta, Victoria, 3677,

In 2015, I conducted a clinical trial, forming part of a coursework Master’s degree, while working full-time as a Grade 1 Physiotherapist at Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW), a 228-bed health service located in the Hume region of Victoria. Following six months of protocol development/preparation and a three month recruitment period, only one participant was recruited. Here I reflect on my experience as a novice researcher in a regional setting.

Conducting research alongside my clinical caseload was challenging on numerous fronts: no quarantined research time secondary to lack of funding for backfill, minimal pre-entry knowledge/experience in statistics and ethics, a lack of awareness of NHW resources, no formal supervisor, minimal engagement from management, and lengthy delays in procuring equipment with hospital funds.

Recruitment was poor secondary to a lower than expected number of eligible patients. Strategies to increase recruitment such as extending the recruitment period and amending the protocol were impractical, secondary to time constraints associated with undertaking a Master’s degree.

Enablers included personal characteristics (driven, keen learner, resilient), some prior exposure to research/quality activities and strong inter-professional relationships with Medical Officers and other clinicians.

In summary, this deflating experience has reduced my motivation to conduct future research projects. My advice for rural clinicians considering embarking on research includes: incorporating contingency plans for low recruitment into the protocol from the outset, considering the possibility of fluctuations in the number of potential participants when determining feasibility, securing quarantined research time, and seeking mentorship/collaboration with a Metropolitan hospital with a strong research culture.


Meredith Castle is a Grade 2 Physiotherapist at Northeast Health Wangaratta, a 228-bed health service located in the Hume region of Victoria. Meredith is currently completing a Master’s of Clinical Rehabilitation through Flinders University. Meredith works clinically in the hospital’s rehabilitation unit and she is passionate about achieving excellent outcomes for rural patients.

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