Trials and tribulations: The professional development of surgical trialists

Anna F. Jarman, Nelda P. Wray, Danielle M. Wenner, Carol M. Ashton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Regulatory and professional bodies issue an ever-increasing number of guidance documents on the ethics and methods of clinical trials, but the quality of clinical trials of invasive therapeutic procedures continues to be a concern. We interviewed aspiring and accomplished surgical trialists to understand how they use guidance documents and other resources in their work. We performed a qualitative research study involving semistructured interviews of a diverse sample of 15 surgical trialists. Professional development as a surgical trialist was haphazard, inefficient, and marked by avoidable mistakes. Four types of resources played constructive roles: formal education; written materials on clinical trials; experience with actual trials; and interpersonal interactions with peers, experts, collaborators, and mentors. Recommendations for improvement centered on education, mentoring, networking, participating in trials, and facilitation by department chairs. The haphazard and unstructured nature of the current system is adding unnecessarily to the numerous challenges faced by surgical trialists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-346.e5
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Clinical trials
  • Interviews as topic
  • Mentoring
  • Professional practice
  • Qualitative research
  • Surgery
  • Teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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