Q&A Part I: Developing Leaders and Building Successful Careers in Your Organization

Suzanne Rose
Director at the Office of Research Stamford Hospital
March 19th, 2020

In February, Dr. Suzanne Rose from Stamford Health presented the webinar “Developing Leaders and Building Successful Careers in Your Organization.” She shared different examples for building camaraderie among teams and empowering staff members to succeed in their roles. After a wide-ranging post-webinar Q&A session, Suzanne helped answer some attendee questions we weren’t able to address during the webinar.

What do your Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs) do compared to Research Nurses?

Our CRCs do not have a nursing license or degree so they are able to perform all the duties of a coordinator that do not include direct patient care, as would be covered by a nursing license. For example, they are not able to perform phlebotomy, electrocardiograms (EKGs) or collect vital signs. For this reason, the non-nurse coordinators are often assigned to large registry studies and handle a high volume of patients on these types of trials. We consider them highly valuable team members because they can handle a very high patient volume.

Did your office have to prove its impact to a certain level before trying to expand staffing?

For CRCs, I have developed a clinical research workload tool which has been covered under another available Forte webinar. There are workload levels assigned which assist us in hiring new study staff.

Additionally, our site was part of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) working group in their 2016 report on Workload Assessment. We have been able to use justification from that report in comparing our sites with other sites of similar size. That report contained the median numbers of patient encounters per month for non-clinical research staff members, which we have used to help receive approval for data managers and other non-clinical staff.

It is also very helpful to reach out to colleagues at similar organizations. Ask them questions, such as how many staff they have or how many studies these staff are handling. If you can show that other organizations like yours have a much different staff to study ratio, this is great rationale for bringing on more staff.

How do you handle staff who are not thrilled with a hiring choice?

We now use a team approach to staff hiring. For every new team member considered for a position at our organization, four to five team members spend several hours with that potential employee. This allows the staff to determine up front if the potential employee is a good fit or not, and we appreciate and embrace their truthful feedback on each candidate. This has helped us alleviate previous problems we experienced with hiring employees who management liked but employees felt were not a great fit for the team.

What would you recommend for team members who want to move through their “career ladder” more quickly than you feel their skills are developing? How do you retain individuals who feel they should move up, but haven’t been in their positions long enough to develop real expertise?

At our organization, an employee cannot progress to a new role for at least a year after either their hire date or their date of transition to a new role. Yearly, each employee creates a development plan. If this development plan includes progressing to a new role on the research team, we put together a checklist of requirements to achieve and schedule meetings with them throughout the year to ensure they are on track. By setting expectations and keeping a detailed checklist, the employee is part of the process and understands where they are on the roadmap to career progression. We also encourage all staff to obtain clinical research certification, no matter their role on the research team, be it through the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) or the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA). We support this expense from our department budget.

Can you share some points on how to approach an organization to be receptive to clinical ladders for Clinical Research Nurses?

The ACRP recently published core competency guidelines for CRCs. This is an excellent resource to create a clinical ladder for Clinical Research Nurses incorporating clinical skills needed for each level (entry level, intermediate and senior). It is very supportive of the need for differentiating levels of skills required for each coordinator level. By adding nursing competencies in, you have a very clear guide for those skills required at each level, as well as a roadmap for growth.

Learn more about empowering your staff and leaders within an organization through promoting a positive work environment in the webinar “Developing Leaders and Building Successful Careers in Your Organization.”

Watch the webinar recording