Field team numbers, composition, and roles

The size and composition of each field team, as well as the type and quantity of field equipment and supplies required, depend on the number of households to be visited within each cluster, the number of people to be interviewed, the expected length of individual interviews, the number and type of data and biological specimens to collect, and whether anthropometry is included. Additional determining factors include the expected travel time between clusters and the number and size of vehicles available.

Fieldwork is usually organized with an aim to minimize the time in any one cluster while also limiting inter-individual error, which can occur with large numbers of interviewers.

Micronutrient surveys generally require substantial amounts of equipment and supplies as well as multiple team members. This may make it necessary to have a bus-type vehicle or two cars for each team. Having two vehicles per team can be helpful in case of cold chain failures, vehicle malfunction, and for transporting additional passengers such as community advocates, local guides, and village leaders. It also allows one sub-team to move ahead to mobilize the next cluster, while the other remains behind to complete interviews or specimen collection. Depending on the mix of indicators and the relative time required for interviews versus sample collection, it may be reasonable to have two interviewer sub-teams covering one cluster each, while a single team of phlebotomists and anthropometrists covers both clusters. It is worth the time for the Management team to work through various potential team and fieldwork configurations to create the most efficient model for the survey design and context.

Fieldwork support team

At the start of survey fieldwork, it is important that the Fieldwork support team (Field coordinators, Laboratory coordinators, and Regional supervisors) visit as many teams as quickly as possible to verify the quality of field implementation. It is recommended that survey fieldwork should begin with all teams working in relatively accessible central locations. Initial field assessments will review the quality of data collection, help make any adjustments where needed, and identify any retraining that might be required. This is logistically easier to do if teams are near a central site. The Fieldwork support team should also provide strong support, oversight and encouragement to field teams during the later stages of a large survey when data quality may otherwise suffer as a result of field team fatigue and low morale.

Field Team Members

A typical micronutrient survey field team consists of

  • 1 Team Leader
  • 1 Interviewer supervisor (if divided into sub-teams)
  • 1 Laboratory supervisor (if divided into sub-teams)
  • 2–4 Interviewers (possibly more if divided into sub-teams)
  • 1–2 Field laboratory technician/phlebotomist
  • 1–2 Drivers
  • Additional personnel depending on survey objectives

The number of teams needed to perform the survey depends on multiple factors, including the budget, the sample size, the number of clusters selected, the amount of time needed to complete the survey in each cluster and the number and type of vehicles, personnel and equipment for each team. The smaller the number of teams, the greater the consistency of data collection will be. However, this must be balanced with the burden of longer field time for each team. In contrast, a large number of teams results in quicker overall implementation, but with potentially less standardized data collection and possible inefficient investment in training additional staff.

To optimize standardized survey implementation, it is recommended to train the smallest number of teams that can feasibly collect the required data in a quality-assured manner over a reasonable period of time. Backup field personnel will also be needed, although this must remain within the budgeted cost for survey training and implementation. If resources permit, it is a good idea to train more personnel than are needed in order to select the best and have some people in reserve if needed.

Where the survey includes anthropometry, multiple members of the team can be trained to conduct the measurements. There may be a main measurer and an assistant measurer. Specification of whom to train for these roles will depend on the expected site of specimen collection. If collection takes place in a mobile field laboratory, then the phlebotomist and laboratory technician may take on the roles of the anthropometrists. If collection takes place at the household, the interviewers may be trained to carry out this task. It is most important that any person collecting length/height and weight measurements is adequately trained in this process before going to the field and that the tasks are not performed by any other person.

Roles of the various members of the field team are described briefly below. Sample job descriptions with detailed tasks and responsibilities for each of the positions are available in the “Tasks and roles for survey personnel” online tool.

Team Leader

Each field team should be supervised by a Team leader. As the senior supervisory member of the field team, this person must understand all aspects of data collection and field logistics in order to manage and supervise the implementation of all appropriate procedures specified in the protocol. In surveys with large teams and/or sub-teams the Team leader role may be divided between an Interview supervisor and a Laboratory supervisor. Whether the role is individual or shared, the overall responsibilities include:

  • coordination and communicating with community leaders at all levels to organize data collection;
  • monitoring, supervising, and supporting team members to ensure quality performance;
  • quality control checking of approximately 10% of interviews conducted in each cluster;
  • regular observations of each interviewer and discussion of any concerns;
  • daily checking and editing all completed questionnaires (paper-based or electronic);
  • conducting interviews on an as-needed basis, for example, if an interviewer is absent;
  • managing survey equipment and supplies, checking availability and functionality;
  • supervising phlebotomists and field laboratory technicians to collect and process specimens and to maintain the cold chain.

At the end of each day, the Team leader should make time to discuss with the team members, assess any issues that arose and plan how to address them. Examples of individual mistakes should be handled sensitively and as privately as possible, although some discussion of examples in a group can create awareness and help the team improve together. Encourage team members to support each other within their respective roles.

If the Team leader finds that tasks such as interviewing, anthropometry, or biological data collection are being conducted with consistent errors, it is important to stop the fieldwork and conduct refresher training on an individual or team level, as needed. Any such incidences should be reported to the appropriate Regional supervisor, who may check whether the same concern is being experienced by other teams. Trained backup people should be available to replace any team member who has consistent problems with collecting data of sufficient quality and whose performance does not improve with additional supervision. This replacement may also be needed in cases of persistent illness or absence of a team member (see online Job description for the Team leader).

Interviewers

Interviewers carry out all interviews and food sample collection. They may also be trained to perform anthropometry tasks (see online Job description for the interviewer). The responsibilities of interviewers include:

  • collecting and checking information from survey participants (including informed consent);
  • collecting household food samples where required;
  • transfering all information and any food samples to the Team leader or other designated person, according to the survey protocol; and
  • providing guidance to participants on any additional components of the survey, for example what to expect and where to go for specimen collection.

Phlebotomists and laboratory technician

Phlebotomists and laboratory technicians are responsible for

  • collection any blood and urine specimens;
  • field processing of blood, urine, and stool specimens, as needed; and
  • maintaining the cold chain until collected specimens are transferred to the district or regional laboratory.

See online Job description for the Phlebotomist and Job description for laboratory technician. These team members may also be trained to perform anthropometry tasks.

Drivers

Drivers are responsible for transporting team members safely to each destination. Ideally, they should have the mechanical skills to maintain the vehicle and fix vehicle problems on the road. Drivers should also be able to assist the survey staff when needed, for example, in carrying equipment. It is the driver’s responsibility to keep the vehicle and equipment inside the vehicle secure and, where needed, to help maintain the cold chain by keeping portable freezers plugged in to the vehicle or assisting with the setup of portable generators. Drivers should be under the supervision of, and report directly to, the Team leader and must not leave the survey team without permission (see online Job description for driver).

Community advocates and focal points

Appropriate community mobilization should have taken place prior to the survey. On arrival in each cluster, the Team leader will contact and establish a good working relationship with the village/community leader. The community leader may be requested to recommend one or more people from the cluster to serve as community advocates for the survey team. Sometimes called local focal point or local guide, this may be the community health worker or another recognized position in the community. Where household listings are conducted in advance of the survey team’s arrival, the listing team can introduce the concept of the survey to the community leader and work with the local focal points to identify cluster boundaries and landmarks.

The focal points can provide information about and assistance with locating survey households, health facilities, stores, and lodging, among other things. The local focal point may also help carry supplies, find an appropriate site for the mobile laboratory (if required), and generally facilitate survey implementation. Importantly, the involvement of a local focal point can generate trust by and access to community members and households to be surveyed. Local focal points need to be available during the entire time that a team is in the cluster/community and should be properly compensated for their time spent with the team.

See the Terms of reference for local focal points in the online tools.

tools