What Makes a Good CRA- From a Coordinator’s Perspective
By Stacey Carmody, CCRP
Firstly, I take my hat off to the Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) who are dedicated in their work. It is not an easy job with its exhausting travel schedules, tight deadlines and endless data to look through with a fine-toothed comb. It’s a job I do not want. A few of them have even told me horror stories of unscrupulous Principal Investigators, rude coordinators, mishandling of study drugs and dingy, cramped working conditions.
When a CRA visits my site, I try to be as accommodating and available to them as possible.
As a Clinical Research Coordinator, I have experienced both good and bad CRAs.
Here are some characteristics of what makes or breaks a great CRA:
A good CRA has an overall friendly, professional personality and is cordial to the Coordinator, the Principal Investigator (PI) and all the site staff. Nothing spoils a site visit like an abrasive personality. Unfortunately, I have had that experience. I even had a CRA say something derogatory about me to my coworker when I stepped out of the room. Not very professional.
A CRA should look professional as well. I don’t think a suit is mandatory, but business-casual will do. I know the times are a-changing, and tattoos and piercings are becoming more mainstream- especially among the latest generation of professionals. I may sound old fashioned to some (I’m a Gen Xer, by the way), but I feel tattoos and piercings should be kept to a minimum, or at least concealed in this field of healthcare. First impressions do count!
A good CRA knows the study protocol that they are assigned to. He or she should be able to answer questions the coordinator and/or the PI have about the protocol. If they cannot answer the question, they should be able to know who to contact for an answer.
With exceptions of flight delays and other uncontrollable travel glitches, a CRA should arrive on time and complete tasks in a timely manner. If possible, a visit to a site should be 2 days at the most. 3 day visits should happen only under special circumstances. You know what they say about guests and fish? They both start to stink after 3 days!
A good CRA is always available by phone and email, and will return messages in a timely manner.
When a CRA finds deviations or other issues at a site, he or she should not be antagonistic towards the site staff and PI. Addressing errors in an aggressive, critical way will only cause a negative experience for everyone at the site, and in turn, a poor relationship with the sponsor. Nobody likes to be bullied. Instead, the CRA should be a source of support for the site – advising the site staff on how to correct the issues and help come up with an action plan. CRAs should not be looking to “beat up” on PI and Coordinators, but rather be an ally.
Lastly, a good CRA should praise a site when he or she sees that the site staff (especially the coordinator and PI) is doing a good job with the study procedures and duties. A“Thank you!” and a “Good job!” goes a long way, it leaves a good impression, and makes for a positive working relationship- one that can possibly extend into the future when other studies come along.