Researchers Adeola Akindana and Laura Want explained that diabetes education may be an integral part of a clinical study, as it was in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). But most diabetes studies have an education component even when it isn’t specified in the study’s protocol. For example, in a drug study in which participants must check their blood glucose levels, they may need to be taught the correct technique.
A diabetes educator can also play a role while a protocol (study plan) is being developed. For example, the educator may be the voice of reason if the principal investigator has unreasonable expectations of what participants will do.
Akindana and Want suggested a game plan for diabetes educators who want to get into research. First, when reading research articles, pay special attention to how the studies were designed. Check out www.clinicaltrials.gov. You may want to consider taking seminars offered by the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP).
Sign up to do a simple study, such as a satisfaction study on a new meter. The company will walk you through the study process. Then look for a group in your area doing a more complicated study. Offer to assist in the study for a couple of hours a week. See if someone is willing to mentor you. Work your way up to more complex studies.
With experience, you’ll be ready to design a study to answer your own question. Your protocol will have to be reviewed to make sure the rights of the human subjects are protected. If you don’t work in a healthcare facility that has an institutional review board (IRB), contact the nearest large hospital, nursing school, or university to see if they will partner with you. Another possibility is an independent review board. One mentioned during the question-and-answer period was Western IRB.
Finally, don’t keep your results to yourself. Report them at a meeting such as the AADE or ADA or publish them in a journal.