Today, May 20th, marks the 15th annual Clinical Trials Day, commemorating the first randomized clinical trial, conducted by James Lind aboard the HMS Salisbury in 1747. This trial, which confirmed the suspicion that scurvy could be prevented by consuming citrus fruits, provided a template for trial design that inspired researchers well into the future.
While the clinical research industry has evolved tremendously since Lind’s pioneering study, we still need to address key challenges to keep moving forward. One of these is the recruitment and retention of high-performing clinical staff, especially clinical research coordinators (CRCs). While many roles are essential to a trial, CRCs are on the front lines of the clinical, administrative and regulatory aspects of a trial. The ability of the CRC to effectively manage and execute study tasks can have a tremendous effect on the trial’s ultimate success.
Addressing Issues with Turnover
Turnover is typically a significant problem for sites employing CRCs. In addition to various research organizations competing for CRC talent, the job can also be a stepping stone to other roles. Their comprehensive experience with clinical trials makes CRCs excellent candidates for clinical research associate (CRA) roles that often provide a significant compensation increase. The clinical experience can also be extremely valuable for those planning to attend medical school, which can lead to short tenures as coordinators. And for CRCs that do stay with an organization, career advancement can often lead to them taking on more project management responsibilities, leaving them less time to work with patients.
Keeping Your CRCs Happy
As with any high-value employee, managers should take extra care to make CRCs feel appreciated and understand their path for career progression. Here are a few tips to help you retain your high performing coordinators.
Find meaningful ways to say thanks
Saying “thank you” in a one-on-one meeting is a great way to let your coordinators know you care. But recognizing them in a public setting can make a much bigger impact for both the employees being recognized and for his or her colleagues. It can strengthen the clinical research team and give your coordinators something to strive for. Tie the award to specific examples of exceptional performance, and highlight how that performance improved the patient experience and made your trials more successful.
Show coordinators the impact of their work
While CRCs often manage a wide array of tasks that are vital to the study, they don’t always have exposure to how their work helped improve public health and well-being. Ask a principal investigator to talk to your coordinators about the impact their work, emphasizing their key role in translating research into real-world results.
Give coordinators a roadmap for career progression
While your high-performing coordinators may not stay in their roles forever, you should work to keep them within your organization. Connect your CRCs with leaders at your institution who started as coordinators, and communicate a “roadmap” for career progression. Mentorship programs are also valuable for coordinators to understand how they can build a career at your organization instead of seeing it as merely a stop on their path.
Help with certification and professional development
Take care to ensure your coordinators are always progressing and developing their skills. Connect your CRCs to any in-house development resources offered by your organization and, when possible, allow them to attend outside development opportunities that fit their current role or desired career path. You can also connect with organizations such as ACRP that offer formal certifications for CRCs and other roles.
Allow your CRCs to connect with participants
High-performing CRCs connect with patients in meaningful ways, building relationships that not only improve the participants’ experiences, but also create more successful trials. Give your CRCs time to connect with their patients, and engage with your team regarding a patient’s history and current status. This is also a great way to identify which of your CRCs are going the extra mile, putting the best foot forward for your organization.
To learn more about how you can attract and retain your high-performing team members, view our featured series Hiring and Retaining Clinical Research Staff. You can also learn more about the history of Clinical Trials Day by viewing our Clinical Trials Day — From Past to Present infographic.