Volunteering For A Clinical Trial

The purpose of a clinical trial is to test new medical treatments and devices in living patients before they go to market. Learn how a clinical trial volunteer is a critical element in bringing medical research from the laboratory to your doctor’s office.

Clinical Trial: Volunteer Criteria

Before volunteers can be recruited, the researchers conducting the trial must come up with a list of “exclusion criteria” and “inclusion criteria:”

  • Exclusion criteria are conditions or circumstances that disqualify a potential volunteer from participating in the clinical trial. For instance, certain medical conditions or treatment history could complicate a study’s findings.
  • Inclusion criteria are requirements that volunteers must meet. To participate in a clinical trial, a volunteer must meet all inclusion criteria, which may include falling within an age range or having—or not having—a specific medical condition.

About Volunteering for a Clinical Trial

The demands of a clinical trial volunteer can vary greatly, depending on the trial’s design. For instance, one clinical trial may allow a volunteer to live at home and only come in for testing, while another may require a participant to stay overnight in the hospital for extended periods.

The nature of the medical tests can also vary greatly. In some trials, volunteers may be required to provide nothing more than a periodic blood sample. Conversely, the testing could be a time-consuming procedure, such as an MRI, or a more invasive procedure, like a biopsy or endoscopy.

Before a clinical trial begins, volunteers must be clearly informed about the nature of the trial and what’s expected of them. Also known as informed consent, this requirement ensures that volunteers are aware of all the risks before signing on.

Clinical Trial Registration and Paid Clinical Trials

If you’re interested in becoming a clinical trial volunteer, you can check online clinical trial registration databases to search for trials. Often searchable by medical condition, clinical trial registration databases include both inclusion and exclusion criteria.

You can also search specifically for paid clinical trials, which pay volunteers for their participation.


CenterWatch. (2010). Volunteering for a clinical trial. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from http://www.centerwatch.com/clinical-trials/volunteering.aspx

ClinicalTrials. (2007). Understanding clinical trials. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/info/understand

National Cancer Institute. (2010). Cancer clinical trials. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Information/clinical-trials

National Marrow Donor Program. (2010). What is a clinical trial? Retrieved December 9, 2010, from http://www.marrow.org/PATIENT/Undrstnd_Disease_Treat/Undrstnd_Treat_Opt/Lrn_Clinical_Trials/What_is_a_Clinical_Trial/index.html