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The most rewarding and challenging part of research is the “people part.” An intimate understanding of human nature is at the heart of good practices for managing professional research relationships between supervisors and staff. There are, of course, many other factors influencing the research professional’s work relationships, including institution policies, the scope of practice, and state and federal laws, but it’s the “people part” that is meaningful and memorable. This chapter explores ways the research professional can foster relationships with colleagues and research subjects, as well as provides some suggestions on creating firewalls.


Working with colleagues and research subjects is required. Doing it well is an art. If you take the unique perspectives and needs of each of your colleagues and subjects into consideration, you have overcome the biggest barrier to finding common ground.

Research Subjects

Research subjects have a relationship with research professionals that is similar to their relationship with their medical providers. There is a fundamental similarity between a patient and research subject in the healthcare setting because both are involved in activities and testing within a medical environment. But there are also a host of differences. Table 4.1 shows these similarities and differences.

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TABLE 4.1 The Similarities and Differences Between Patients and Research Subjects

Both Groups Are…


Research Subject


  • Illness and care requirements may be creating stress and disruption of their normal lives.

  • They may feel too weak or ill to question or comparison-shop for medical services.

  • They may need to use preferred medical providers due to the requirements of their medical insurance plan.

  • They may feel stressed by their medical condition and care.

  • They may be desperate for treatment options.

  • The subject may not understand the difference between standard of care or optional research activities.


They need professional medical treatment.

They may have exhausted available approved medical therapies.

Interacting With You Over a Period of Time

  • Outpatient clinical care is usually intermittent and ongoing.

  • Inpatient care is usually a short-term situation until the patient is medically stable and released from the hospital.

The relationship between research professionals and research subjects is based on the research protocol and last for a day, a week, or years.


Treatment may take place in a medical clinic, hospital ward in an acute care hospital, or a longterm care facility. Medical professionals may provide services in the patient’s home.

The study may take place in a clinic, hospital ward, long-term care facility, or community-based ward, medical office, or in the community.

Simply put, patients need clinical care, but research subjects do not need to participate in research. The importance of establishing rapport and a positive working relationship with research subjects cannot be overstated.

Why do patients agree to participate? ...

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