In the 2013 CNNMoney survey, Clinical Research Associate (CRA) was rated as one of the top 10 best jobs in America in terms of compensation, job growth, personal satisfaction, benefit to society, flexibility and stress level. However, despite all these, the industry is still facing the dilemma of CRA shortage due to lack of the minimum two-year experience. In fact, in a study conducted in the year 2015, it was found out that there are at least 10,000 open CRA positions in the US. As a result, the pharmaceutical industry can possibly experience cost increase and prolonged drug development timeline, which may eventually lead to a loss of investor confidence and potential revenue. One key to address this concern is the willingness of the industry to embrace change. This may begin by examining their current protocol in hiring CRAs and identifying the barriers that hinder new talents from filling the position.

According to  an article published in the Journal of Clinical Research Best Practices in April 2016, Quintiles, a major provider of biopharmaceutical development and commercial outsourcing services, some of the effective ways to attract a new talent pool is by offering a competitive salary, outlining a distinct career pathway within the organization and utilizing information technology in simplifying procedures to promote better work-life balance.

Aside from this, as suggested by a top-tier Clinical Research Organization (CRO), inVentiv Health, another approach that can possibly help the industry conquer CRA shortage is through talent management which entails investing in a global talent pool, thereby, equipping CRAs with enough knowledge and skills that will enable them to perform their duties and responsibilities independently. The following will give us an overview of the program that will help achieve growth and sharpen the talent of new CRAs.

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  1. In-depth screening of candidates. Educational background and clinical experience may be considered as top priorities in selecting the right candidates. However, managers should look beyond all these and must consider motivation and passion. Mere intellectual capability is not sufficient for this noble calling. Future CRAs should also be prepared to devote their time and effort in finding solutions that will help improve the patients’ quality of life.
  1. Engaging potential applicants in intensive training and simulation exercises. Through this phase of recruitment, applicants will be given background information about the fundamentals of clinical research, pharmaceutical industry, standard operating procedures and guidelines governing their chosen field. On the other hand, after providing them with theoretical background, simulation exercises will be introduced, which will let new recruits utilize the knowledge they obtained in a safe environment before they practice in the actual field.
  1. Providing CRAs with apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Allowing recruits to work alongside with experienced CRAs will give them the opportunity to learn, enhance their skills and demonstrate competence while they are still under close supervision. Through this phase, they will be given resources and support from their supervisor, trainers and class peers who are organized into a buddy system.
  1. Giving CRAs the recognition they deserve. Aside from competitive compensation, CRAs are more likely to stay in their chosen field if employers will give full trust in their leadership and support whenever they need it. Furthermore, providing them with the opportunity for both personal and professional development will encourage them to consider their job as both devotion and passion rather than, merely, a way to earn a living.

3 thoughts on “Approaches to Conquer Global CRA Shortage

  1. I appreciate this article. I am trying to transition from a CCRC to a CRA with no luck. I keep getting told I need a Bachelor degree. The thing is, I would be great at this job. I learn really quick, I’m very organized, I have excellent time management skills I understand how clinical trials work, I have great working knowledge of GCP guidelines, I don’t have a problem with the amount of travel required and many more skills that would make me a great CRA. Unfortunately for them and me I can not get hired on anywhere due to not having that degree.

    1. That is unfortunate and short-sited by the CRO industry. Former CCRCs most often are our best CRAs. In 10+ years I have trained many 4-year degrees with no clinical experience and I will take Clinical Experience every time combined with the fact the former CCRC understands the site dynamic and is able to really work well with the site to get the job done. A 4-year degree has nothing to do with those interpersonal skills and the insight of having been in someone’s shoes. Wishing you all the best and wish I was a hiring manager.

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