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Nursing issues
Nurses must be aware of the potential for causing distress when recruiting vulnerable populations to research projects
  1. C. Michael White
  1. Pharmacy Practice, University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, Storrs, Connecticut, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr C. Michael White, Pharmacy Practice, University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, Storrs, CT 06269, USA; charles.white{at}

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Commentary on: Alexander S, Pillay R, Smith B. A systematic review of the experiences of vulnerable people participating in research on sensitive topic. Int J Nurs Stud 2018;88:85–96.

Implications for practice and research

  • Nurses can confidently recommend a research study to patients from vulnerable populations because the overall impact on their well-being is generally modest and most patients with research-induced distress are still glad they participated.

  • Vulnerable patients value their role as research participants and, even if there is some distress caused by participating, most patients still feel their participation is worth it.


Vulnerable populations (e.g. mentally ill, terminally ill, physical or sexual trauma, children, cognitively impaired, homeless, prisoners, migrants/refugees) are at the risk of distress when asked sensitive questions (eg, past trauma, mental illness, illegal activity, addiction).1 2 This systematic review by Alexander et al summarises the current literature exploring how participants from vulnerable populations …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.