Newark, DE-based Christiana Care Health System’s long-time educational program was set up to keep research nurses up to date, but over time it lost its luster.

The sessions were becoming boring, and attendance records backed up that sentiment, says Janet Leary-Prowse, MSEd, CIP, IRB research education specialist and IRB member.

“People would leave partway through the sessions because they were tired of hearing only the IRB staff talk about rules and regulations,” she says.

The sessions needed to be more interactive, says Melanie Chichester, BSN, RNC-OB, CPLC, an IRB member and labor and delivery nurse at Christiana Care.

“The enticement was continuing education hours,” Chichester says. “Every clinical research nurse has to have a certain number of education hours each year.”

The following is how they changed the educational program and nearly doubled the number of attendees:

Encourage interactivity. “The sessions have very, very lively discussions,” Chichester says. “I hear from nurse researchers how much they enjoy this kind of setup where they talk to each other.”

It gives participants a professional opportunity in a low-stress situation, she adds. “It’s comfortable and not as intimidating, so they enjoy this education time working with their peers and collaborating.”

Find diverse speakers. “We encourage speakers to come from other departments, so it’s not just the IRB talking,” Leary-Prowse says. “We’ve had clinical research nurses talk, and last month one of the physicians talked about big data.”

Investigators who work in translational research have talked about tissue procurement and tissue engineering, and a former IRB member spoke about health literacy, she adds.

“Occasionally someone from the IRB office will do the presentation, but not as frequently as in the past,” Leary-Prowse says.

Include non-regulatory topics. “One of our most popular topics was the teach-back method,” says Leary-Prowse. “It was taught by a research nurse who also is a professor at a local university, teaching nursing students.”

There was one session in the fall that was based on a project related to caring for the caregiver. The presenter was an emergency medicine physician, she recalls.

“She talked about a support program for staff members who have gone through a traumatic or upsetting situation,” Leary-Prowse says. “She related a few instances of how she needed help, and she opened up the floor to comments.”

Two nurses spoke about patients they had cared for who died. “There was not a dry eye in the room because so many people could relate to what they were talking about,” she adds.

Have IRB staff and director on hand for questions. “There almost always is one question for the IRB,” Chichester notes.

“Consistently there’s a higher-level question that only the IRB director can respond to, so it’s helpful to have the director at those sessions,” Leary-Prowse says. “This way, multiple people have the benefit of receiving the response, rather than one person who makes a phone call later.”

Broaden marketing efforts. “Previously, I’d send out a blast email to research nurses,” Leary-Prowse says. “Now I have an announcement for the session posted on the internal website so any employee logging into the hospital website will see that this presentation is happening.”

The educational sessions originally were designed to give IRB staff a way to connect with and answer questions for research nurses on a routine basis, but it’s evolved, Leary-Prowse says.

“We are branching out into topics they wouldn’t normally have thought about,” she adds.