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7 Steps to Train a Super Clinical Research Coordinator

Between loads of emails and back-to-back patients, the clinical research super-coordinator swiftly and accurately manages your site’s data collection, leaving you with peace of mind at the end of a long day.

One can only imagine what might happen without a super-coordinator by your side…the horror! Unfortunately, it’s more common than many site owners would like: the clinical research coordinator (CRC) position experiences a high burnout rate, with coordinators often not making it for more than just a few years due to the heavy workload.

The question is, how do you develop, train, and keep a dependable super-coordinator?

Because of all that a qualified coordinator can do for your site, it is up to you, a site owner, to maintain happy and focused CRCs. Finding and keeping good coordinators is a mix of experience, luck, and a few of our key techniques…

Establish and maintain a Relationship With Your Clinical Research Coordinators

As with any leadership position, you want to know how your employees work and who they are. What do they respond to? What environments do they best work in? Answer their questions promptly and consider holding weekly meetings where they are free to voice any concerns. Take an interest in your coordinator; building a strong, professional relationship will often result in a more loyal and responsive employee. Having an environment where your coordinator feels comfortable asking questions and keeping you informed can save you the headache that comes from finding mistakes that were made because your coordinator was too embarrassed to ask for help.

Invest in your coordinators

Everyone wants to feel valued in their workplace. While coordinators often learn as they go, it is worth investing time into coming up with a standardized process for training new coordinators. Having a structured process will not only get your CRC up to speed faster, but will also instill more trust in your role as a leader and set him or her up for future success through clear communication of expectations. This structured process could include, first, a clear and concise job description; then, training modules and a minimum competency that will need to be completed before seeing a patient; and finally, clear protocols to fall back on if anything goes awry.

If you’re interested in hiring great Clinical Research Coordinators, check out CRIO’s Downloadable 10 Coordinator Interview Questions!

After your coordinator is onboarded, it is still important to continue to invest in their personal and professional growth. Pay for a certification by industry organizations, such as SoCRA or ACRP. Provide lunch-talks (lectures held during lunch) or training courses that may not seem outwardly relevant to the day-to-day tasks of a coordinator, but are valuable to professional growth. Get your coordinator certified in project management, or software expertise, like eSource. Send your coordinators to conferences and meetings. Not only will your coordinator feel valued and connected to the team, but he or she will also gain knowledge that may benefit your site.

Communicate expectations

From day one, communicate what you expect from your coordinator. Be clear about any timelines and time-sensitive responsibilities. Be sure to keep them in the loop about the bigger milestone timelines, as it will allow them to understand why certain, smaller goals are important. Measuring and recording metrics in a non-confrontational way may be a good strategy to keep your coordinators motivated and on top of their responsibilities.

Recognize good work

Coordinators carry a lot of the burden in a research site. Although they may not be perfect, they do a lot of tasks well and deserve recognition for their contributions. When your coordinators complete an important task or a big milestone, be sure to thank them with a short note, or maybe even a box of doughnuts or pastries. Recognizing good work is just another way your coordinator will feel empowered and motivated.

Remind Your Coordinators what they are working toward

With the demands of a coordinator position, it can be easy to get lost in the paperwork and day-to-day operations of working in a research site. Allowing staff to give input into site goals and milestones is a good way to create buy-in and give ownership. Fun competitions for quality data – such as less than X number of queries a week means doughnuts or a month of no PDs means a staff lunch – can help motivate and keep your coordinators engaged.

Occasionally remind your staff (and yourself) why this work is so important and how it contributes to a healthier future. Ensure that your site’s mission is well-known, giving everyone inspiration and a common goal.

Give Your Coordinators Proper Tools & Clinical Trial Software

Although you can’t make the work easier, you can certainly help your coordinators by implementing processes or investing in software to help streamline their workflows.

Clinical Trial Management Systems (CTMS) will automate many tasks involved in scheduling, patient recruitment, and finance tracking. Investing in a software is a big step, but with big payoffs. Consider the growth potential for your site when your coordinators are not stuck filling out unnecessary paperwork, but are instead focused on conducting more patient visits or preparing for monitors.

eSource has recently hit the clinical research industry and is making big waves in data collection. Instead of filling out paper source, coordinators enter the data directly into electronic source through a tablet or desktop. eSource has increased in popularity because it is much more efficient than paper source, and often has alerts and other data validation tools that can be configured to ensure better quality data. eSource has the potential to allow coordinators more flexibility in when they complete their work.

If you are interested in investing in software for your site be sure to do your research and think not only about the product itself, but about the service you will be getting as a part of your new partnership with the software vendor. Because this is such an important investment, you want to be sure that you will have the support that you and your team will need to smoothly transition from your current process.

To Manage Clinical Research Coordinators, Be patient yet direct

Keep in mind that your coordinators are human, with outside distractions and responsibilities. If a coordinator is suddenly slipping up in their performance, intervene early and learn what is going on. It is important to keep a pulse on your site’s performance and to not let a situation spiral out of control when you notice an unusual delinquency. If you do notice something unusual, calmly approach your coordinator to identify the issue and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Be proactive, problem solve, and maintain your relationship with your coordinator.

The general takeaway from these techniques should be that a better trained, happier coordinator will be more productive. Treating your CRCs like they are valued members of a team and reminding everyone of your common goal will result in more loyalty and less burnout. Ensuring that your coordinators are equipped with tools, such as CTMS and eSource software, will signal to your coordinators that that you care about their work and will ultimately result in a smoother running site.

Curious how CRIO’s software can make life easier for you and your coordinators? Learn more during a one-on-one demo with our team.

Author: Anna Krauss is a former Project Manager at Clinical Research IO. She has experience in the health field through her work as a Research Assistant with the MaineGeneral Hospital system, Hospital General de Agudos Bernardino Rivadavia in Argentina, and through her experiences working as an EMT.

Editor: Jill Heinz is the Owner and Director of Injury Care Research – a site full of super-coordinators! Jill has worked in the research industry for over 17 years and is a Certified Research Coordinator and Certified Research Contracts Professional. Her favorite task is meeting with research subjects and overseeing the coordination of clinical trials.

by Megan Richards Customer Experience Manager at CRIO
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