There are plenty of articles discussing the clinical research workforce shortage and different approaches to workforce development. These articles typically agree that the biggest challenge facing the industry is the lack of available, experienced and quality candidates to fulfill open positions. Let’s dig a little deeper to the heart of this matter: Are people even aware of the career opportunities in clinical research? If people are not aware of the profession, how would they know to seek education and experience that would enable them to qualify for these exciting positions?
As I think back on my own training and education, I did not know about clinical research until a doctor I worked with asked me if I was interested in doing research. My initial thought was, “No. I want to be with patients, not paperwork!” He shared with me the secret that in clinical research I would spend more time with patients than I was as a staff nurse, while helping to advance science for future patients Plus I would go to work Monday through Friday like many other people.
In the face of this workforce shortage, what are we doing as a community to recruit the next generation of clinical researchers? Here are my top five suggestions:
Professional networking is easier than you think. Connect your local chapter of your research organization (SoCRA, ACRP, SRA, etc.) with another professional organization’s local chapter (Oncology Nursing Society, Student Nurses’ Association, American Medical Technologists, American Pharmacy Association, etc.) for a networking event. Share stories on how members got into clinical research and the exciting career opportunities with similar backgrounds. Perhaps a sponsor or CRO would even host the event or provide a light meal, as they too need sites to have quality professionals in order to conduct research.
After hours, host an open house at your site. Invite local recruiters and colleagues to learn about your organization, including the different roles and career advancement opportunities available. Brag about the exciting advances that your site has contributed to, such as new FDA approved drugs or devices, innovative screening techniques, publications and presentations. This is a great chance to show them firsthand why your site is a great place to work.
Create opportunities for mentoring. In order to get the ball rolling, I reached out to the local nursing schools and offered my research clinic as a site for nursing students in their community health rotation. I was able to introduce these students to the many roles nurses held at my site. In turn, they earned hands-on experience with lots of blood draws, central lines and specimen collection. My site also had a summer internship program to give college students a chance to experience clinical research and see if it was a career fit for them. If you have a dynamic speaker at your site, ask him or her to volunteer to give lectures at local schools. It is never too early to plant the seed in the minds of young clinical researchers.
Marketing matters. Celebrate your chosen career and your organization via Facebook, Linkedln, Twitter. Attend local and national job fairs. Publish press releases announcing successes with statements from the staff. The possibilities are endless. For example, my research department published a quarterly, internal newsletter including articles such as, “Tunes Spinning in the PK Lab”, “l O Things You Didn’t Know About_ Employee”, “Fun Facts on Medicare Coverage Analysis or new GCP”, “What Does a Regulatory Affairs Coordinator Really Do?”, along with pictures from the latest outing or community service project. The newsletter gave snippets of clinical research jobs and showcased a thriving site culture.
In addition to attending the same industry events, encourage your staff to also attend conferences outside of clinical research; such as in the area of therapeutic interest (Trauma & Acute Care Consortium, Oncology Nursing Society, Pediatrics, Neurology, Dermatology, etc). Conferences are great places to network, learn, celebrate successes and recruit talent to research. Use the opportunity to share your role and organization at a national level.
Considering that most hiring managers are requiring at least two years of clinical research experience, otherwise known as the professional unicorn. It would behoove all clinical research organizations to invest time and energy in creating more awareness of the profession. By addressing the heart of the matter, rather than simply restating the problems facing our industry, Clinical Research professionals can drive candidates to training and education, enabling them to be eligible for these exciting careers.
Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring, 2016 edition of SCRS Insite: The Global Journal for Clinical Research Sites.
Tesar, N. (2016). Workforce Development for Clinical Research Associates: Evolving Paths to Competency. Clinical Researcher, 20-23.
‘Wells, C .. Robbins, J .. & Luna, G. (2014). Arizona Clinical Research Workforce Survey. Online Journal for Worktorce Education and Development. l-14.