How to Volunteer for Clinical Trials: A Guide to Volunteering in Medical Research

Interested in volunteering for a clinical trial? Check out our detailed guide for clinical trial volunteers and those considering becoming one.

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Reviewed by Giselle Leung, PharmD, BCGP

Published 20 December 2023

Clinical trials are a key research tool for advancing medical knowledge and patient care. They’re run to test various scientific developments – including medical interventions, surgical and radiological procedures, new devices, behavioral treatments, and preventive care.

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However, a recent study by the Health Information National Trends Survey indicated that only 9% of Americans report having been invited to participate in clinical trials. And, of those who were invited, just 47% reported volunteering.

These low participation rates can result in trials failing – which is why more volunteers are so desperately needed.

Looking to participate in a clinical trial? Don't know where to start?

Our clinical trial platform can connect you with trials that match your needs and eligibility. Take the first step towards accessing cutting-edge treatments and start your search today to discover the potential benefits of participating in clinical trials.

Why are clinical trials important?

Researchers use clinical trials to determine what does and doesn’t work in humans – specifically what can’t be learned either in the laboratory or by assessing animals.

They can help develop medications and strategies for the treatment and prevention of disease, as well as ways to detect, diagnose, and reduce the chances of developing one.

Trials also help doctors decide whether the side effects of a new treatment are acceptable when weighed against the potential benefits.

How are studies approved for volunteer participation?

If a study involves an investigational drug, it must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before volunteers are invited.

Studies are also screened for safety, ethics, and necessity by a team of physicians and scientists.

Why people choose to volunteer in clinical trials

People volunteer for many reasons, including personal interests, a desire to ‘give back’ and help others, or because they’re seeking support with a medical condition.

Access to new treatments

If an individual is suffering from a disease or illness, clinical trials may provide access to new, potentially life-saving treatments that are not yet available to the public. However, there is no guarantee that the trial will be successful.

Contributing to medical advancements

By participating in clinical trials, volunteers can improve researchers’ understanding of diseases and their treatment – potentially improving the care and lifespan of current and future patients.

Personal motivations for volunteering

Some people choose to participate in clinical trials due to an interest in science, a desire to help others, or because they feel a sense of empowerment over their own health.


Clinical trials sometimes offer compensation for participation, which can be a motivating factor for certain individuals.

Support and care

If the volunteer has an illness or disease related to the trial, they can potentially meet people in a similar position, whilst being closely monitored by medical professionals. This can offer a sense of security and peace of mind.

Who can volunteer in a clinical trial?

Clinical trials aren’t limited to people suffering with an illness. In fact, both healthy people and those with an existing condition can participate, depending on the study’s requirements as detailed in the protocol.

Eligibility criteria for volunteering in clinical trials

Eligibility criteria vary, depending on the trial itself. However, there are some requirements common to all trials, such as certain health stipulations. Some trials might also require participants to meet a specific age, gender, or certain lifestyle requirements.

Volunteering in studies for healthy volunteers

Healthy volunteers are needed for early clinical research studies, helping to establish the safety, dosage, and side effects of new drugs or treatments.

Depending on the study, you might not be eligible if you use tobacco or illegal drugs, if you drink more than a certain amount of alcohol, or if you have a particular health condition. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may not be eligible to volunteer in some trials.

What to consider before applying to volunteer in a clinical trial

It’s important to understand the benefits and risks of a clinical trial before volunteering, as well as the costs, and commitments involved.

Is it safe to volunteer for clinical trials?

Clinical trials vary vastly in nature. And whilst some present a greater risk than others, it’s difficult to determine the safety of an individual study.

Before you volunteer, it’s wise to consider the severity of the illness or condition being studied, examine the study protocol, and investigate the qualifications of the research staff.

What are the benefits and risks of volunteering in a clinical trial?

By taking part in a clinical trial, you are advancing medical knowledge. You could help scientists find treatments for people suffering from chronic, serious, or life-threatening illnesses. Or indeed, for yourself. In some cases, you can benefit from receiving a thorough physical exam. And you might also receive compensation.

However, like routine medical procedures, clinical research trials do come with risks, some of which are more serious than others. The effectiveness and safety of the treatment being tested might be unknown, so it may not work as intended. In rare circumstances, this can result in participants requiring medical attention. Plus, there’s no guarantee that participating in a clinical trial will provide any benefits. However, these studies remain a vital part of the research process.

How much does it cost to volunteer in a clinical trial?

Some trials ask participants to pay for the cost of their own medical care, and to cover the cost of travel to and from the trial location, while others might provide it free of charge.

How much of your time will the clinical trial take?

Clinical trials can be time consuming, and you may need to make frequent visits to the study site. Each trial will vary, so find out as much as possible beforehand, and consider whether you have the time and flexibility to commit to the requirements.

Clinical trial volunteer rights and safety

Regulations and guidelines are in place to ensure that all clinical trials meet strict standards and that your rights and safety remain a priority.

All clinical trials must be approved and continuously monitored by an independent Institutional Review Board or a Human Rights Committee.

What protections exist for clinical trial volunteers?

Your individual rights include safe, considerate, and respectful care. This includes confidentiality, being given complete information about the protocols, risks, and benefits, as well as being assessed and treated if you suffer any pain or discomfort.

Informed consent

Before deciding to participate in a study, you will be asked to review an informed consent form. This form provides facts about the study, so you can make an educated decision about whether to participate.

If you want to proceed, you’ll need to sign the form, although this is not a contract and you can choose to leave the study at any time.

Safety monitoring

The trial must have measures in place to monitor participant safety, including regular check-ins and reporting any adverse events.


All clinical trials are required to hold your personal and medical information in the strictest confidence. This includes compliance with patient privacy laws, such as HIPAA.

Right to withdraw

You have the right to withdraw from the trial at any time, and for any reason, without penalty.

Steps to take to become a clinical trial volunteer

There are several steps to take to locate and apply for suitable clinical trials.

Find a clinical trial

Many types of trials are available, so the first step is finding one that matches your interests, health status, and geographic location.

Review the eligibility criteria

You might need to be a certain age or gender, or meet specific health or lifestyle criteria. So always check the eligibility criteria carefully. Always consult with your doctor if any criteria are unclear.

Contact the clinical trial or study

After finding a clinical trial that interests you, either reach out to the study team or complete any required application forms to ensure your name is in the database of potential participants.

Pass the screening process

The clinical trial team will conduct an initial screening to assess your eligibility based on the study's inclusion and exclusion criteria.

This may include questions about your medical history, current medications, and other health-related factors. You might also be examined to assess your overall health.

Preparing to volunteer in a clinical trial

Volunteering in a clinical trial can be an incredibly rewarding experience. However, it’s important to be mentally and physically prepared.

Have realistic expectations

If you have a medical condition, remain realistic about what the trial can provide, as it may not offer a cure or solution. However, it is likely to provide valuable insights for the researchers involved.

Understand the study requirements

Understanding the clinical trial requirements is important as it can help alleviate any anxiety, as well as manage your expectations. These requirements might include the number of visits, tests, and procedures that are involved.

Talk to the study team

If you have any queries or concerns, the study team can answer your questions about the trial and provide more information.

What to expect during and after a clinical trial

Although all clinical trials are different, there are some common factors you can expect from most studies.

Day-to-day expectations

Most clinical trials include an exam of your health at the beginning, during, and end, which means you may receive more medical care than you would ordinarily. During the trial, you might also be asked to monitor yourself and report any adverse effects.

After the clinical trial ends

In general, at the end of a trial, the research team analyzes everyone’s results, and a summary is published in a report. You don’t usually receive your individual results.

If the trial shows promising results, it may continue onto the next phase, and you may be invited to participate further. This very much depends on the phase of the trial when you entered, and the feedback gained from it.

Where to find a clinical trial or study

Many hospitals and research centers conduct trials, so you could contact them or check their website to enquire about taking part.

Your doctor or healthcare provider may also be aware of trials that are looking for volunteers.

If you have a particular disease or condition, patient advocacy groups may have information about relevant clinical trials.

Several websites also specialize in connecting people with clinical trials. And some use social media and online communities to recruit participants, so it’s worth browsing online.

How can I find studies currently recruiting volunteers?

You can find information about research studies currently recruiting volunteers by viewing our clinical trials pages.

Our clinical trial services can help you find opportunities to participate in clinical trials as a healthy volunteer. You can contribute to the development of new treatments while also potentially receiving compensation for your time and effort. Sign up now and start making a difference.

Trials open for enrollment

If you're interested in participating in a clinical trial, we can help you find trials that are open for enrollment and match your needs and eligibility. By joining a clinical trial, you can potentially benefit from new treatments while also contributing to medical knowledge for future generations. Don't wait – start exploring your options today.

Trials opening soon for enrollment

Looking to be among the first to access new treatments through clinical trials? Our services can help you stay informed and up-to-date on trials opening soon for enrollment that match your needs and eligibility. Sign up now and be the first to know when these trials become available.


Clinical trials are vital for providing scientific insights that could potentially revolutionize patient care.

Even if they’re unsuccessful, the information gained by the study team can inform future research and trials, so every one of them is valuable.

By becoming a volunteer, you could play a role in improving the quality of life and prognosis for current and future generations. And potentially your own.

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