I’ve always been interested in Feng Shui, so when a colleague recommended a videocast on this topic, I was eager to view it. Not sure how many of you believe in or practice this ancient Chinese philosophy, but in the Hindu culture, we have our own version called “Vastu.” It seemed timely with the promise of spring, as cleaning and de-cluttering are fully embodied within this practice. As I started listening, several of the core principles the presenter mentioned sounded logical and familiar. In fact, it paralleled many of the same conversations we have about clinical trials accrual.
Now, what in the world does Feng Shui have to do with clinical trials accrual? Well, Feng Shui is not a religion, a dogma, or superstition. It’s a process or set of practices. Feng Shui is your environment, with everything in its right place, and what you can do to stimulate positive energy flow. There are 35 different kinds of Feng Shui. Thirty-five different processes—who knew? I started thinking about how many types of activities clinical trials professionals conduct to recruit participants. There are probably more like 3500 methods. But as in Feng Shui, every setting needs its own set of effective practices.
As I listened to the presenter further, it seemed that the exercise of Feng Shui may actually have an essential role at a clinical trials site. Your current setting and clinical trials procedures may seem comfortable. It may be what the team has always done to recruit patients. It’s what you’ve seen, or it’s all you know. It feels right. But is it? Are things in the “right place”? Are they working for your site? Maybe some components need adjustments for better “energy flow,” or, better participant recruitment?
The presenter emphasized that most of us have everything we need to adjust. In Feng Shui and in clinical trials accrual, I would offer, everything counts, and everyone counts. So, when assessing your situation, look at everything and everyone. Look at who’s involved in accrual and who’s not? Is everyone properly trained? Is the receptionist at the front counter or your data manager part of the process, too? If they have direct patient contact, they should be knowledgeable about how to discuss clinical trials. Look at the tools you have and how you are using them. Maybe they need “shifting to another corner of the room.” In other words, perhaps it’s time to update what you have or search for new tools—on AccrualNet!
Feng Shui is taking the ergonomics of space and making it work for you. Your intentions are by choice, and not by default, and those intentions affect what happens to you. In the case of clinical trials accrual, maybe your efforts could use some shaking up. There is always a need and time for assessment. We discuss this point in our article (Parreco et al., 2012) about communication style, but it applies to all facets of clinical trials accrual. How we interact with space—or the clinical trials site—will influence the effectiveness of our work.
Here are a few additional Feng Shui tenets and how they might relate to accrual:
- Not doing dishes at night brings bad energy. Are your CT accrual plans made the day before? Have you flagged potential patients with whom to discuss clinical trials the next day?
- Not making your bed in the morning brings disarray into the rest of the day. Is your site organized--including your staffing, charts/records, recruitment plans, etc.? It seems obvious, but a couple of extra minutes each morning might save a world of time throughout the day.
- Symbols are embedded with your intentions. Do you have “symbols” of clinical trials available for participants to see or to pick up and read? NCI has posters and other materials for your site.
Do you have other practices at your site to maximize recruitment? Do you have any Feng Shui-inspired suggestions to help others?