Today’s guest post comes to us from Stacey Carmody, a clinical research coordinator with tons of experience who has also written posts for this website here and here. If you would like to contribute blog posts for this publication, please email me email@example.com.
“You Do What for a Living?” Explaining the Profession of a Clinical Research Coordinator
When I tell people outside of the healthcare field what I do for a living, they often reply, “Clinical research? Oh, that sounds interesting.” It sounds interesting to them but it is apparent that they are not familiar with this profession as much as other healthcare professions such as nursing. This is probably due in part to research taking place in the background on the stage of patient care. Unless a patient is enrolled in a clinical trial, the patient will not see research staff as they would a “frontline” person such as a doctor or a nurse.
Another factor to consider is that the job of the “clinical research professional” is a relatively new career. In the early days of medical research, work was done by physicians and their nurses and scientists. The title “Clinical Research Coordinator” simply did not exist. As awareness and the rules governing research evolved, so did the roles of those who entered the field. By the mid- 1970′s, a certification agency and professional organization was established specifically for those who worked in clinical research. Other organizations would form soon after, as the field was emerging with new roles, new titles and new specialties.
I was not even familiar with the clinical research field until the late 1990′s. In childhood, I do not recall anyone mentioning clinical research as a profession at Career Day in school. Like many clinical research coordinators, I started out in another type of job, and kind of “fell into” this profession. Nobody I knew went to college to earn a degree in this profession. It is only in recent years that colleges are offering degrees and certificates in clinical research. Currently, coordinators come from diverse backgrounds in the sciences such as biology, nursing , pathology and pharmacology. While a science or allied health background can give you a foundation for understanding research, it does not really prepare you for the day to day duties of the field. I learned on the job, as many coordinators have.
So…back to what I tell people about what I do for a living. I explain in lay terms that what I do is enroll patients into clinical trials to see if new drugs will help them. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I sometimes talk about all the regulatory paperwork that I handle and explain how research is kept “in check” . I do this partly because many still have an perception of research that casts people as “guinea pigs” that get experimented on. The field is still emerging from the shadows of its dark past. I like to put what I do in a positive light.
I have hope that the new generation will have more of an awareness of what clinical research is and perhaps the occupation will be on their radar when they are deciding on a career. It can be a path to a worthwhile journey.