Shifting the Narrative on Clinical Research at a Nevada Health System

University of Nevada and Renown

Raising Community Awareness to Optimize Impact

Nevada’s first integrated health system was created in June 2021 when an affiliation agreement was signed between Renown Health and the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine. This expanded clinical research opportunities for patients as a core pillar of the affiliation’s mission, with the goal of providing access to novel treatments for diagnoses in addition to standard of care.

“Bringing our visions for clinical research to life in local communities with little knowledge of the role and benefits of clinical trials initially proved more difficult than we expected,” says Kristen Gurnea, MPH, CCRC, ACRP-PM, Manager of Clinical Research, Renown Health. “We faced a disconnect between our organizational goals and the ability to execute on these—a challenge that is often faced following these types of agreements.”

“Our leadership worked hard to fully understand and address the mismatch between institutional aspirations and operational effectiveness,” notes Gurnea. “Ultimately, the research department served as a bridge between the two affiliates, advocating effectively for both organizations’ perspectives.”

“Central to the success of our approach were strategic communications and marketing plans, which enabled us to deliver on ambitious development goals in clinical research,” explains Danielle Eaton, MBA, Director of Clinical Research at Renown Health and University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine. “We’re also planning to give presentations about clinical research at New Employee Orientation time and will continue to host events for site staff spotlighting medical student and resident research.”

An important step was a review of the state of clinical trial awareness at the time of the affiliation agreement. As Eaton explains, this provided a baseline that was founded on research staff discussions, informal networking, and the formal needs assessment undertaken by the research department to understand organizational awareness regarding clinical trials. An action plan was developed, with steps taken to address clinical research awareness gaps from an institutional perspective. Significant progress was achieved.

Shifting the Narrative: Raising Community Awareness to Optimize Impact

Join Danielle and Kristen at ACRP 2023 [April 28 – May 1; Dallas, TX], where they will address the leadership and teamwork skills necessary to bring clinical research to life in communities with minimal understanding of their purpose and benefit for patients. View complete schedule.

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“Expanding institutional communications enabled all staff—from entry level to executive leadership—to understand and articulate key elements of clinical research,” states Gurnea. “As part of the communications campaign, a series of blogs for internal and external stakeholders has been instrumental in providing information on how to participate in a clinical trial, misconceptions about clinical trials, and example case studies of people treated in Renown clinical trials. Coupled with a vital supporting role for research and front-line staff in raising awareness of research activity, this helped drive convergence of standard clinical care and research as a care option. A strategic marketing plan deployed by research leaders succeeded in expanding enrollment.”

“The result of our efforts was a successful shift in the narrative around clinical research from both institutional and community perspectives,” concludes Eaton. “We’re currently running around 80 clinical trials, in areas including pulmonology, cardiology, pediatrics, neurology, and oncology, and with engagement in several additional specialties under way.”

Author: Jill Dawson