Remote monitoring tools and other technologies aside, travel will remain a basic requirement for clinical research associates (CRAs) for years to come, says Joe Mills, senior director for the Global Recruitment Center with inVentiv Health Clinical. “It’s a core necessity and you can’t get away from it,” he notes.
The demands of travel are also among the biggest factors contributing to elevated levels of CRA turnover and burnout. However, there are ways to mitigate the travel burdens faced by CRAs, Mills says.
Some travel-oriented tactics might be more difficult for small or even medium-sized contract research organizations (CROs) to replicate. Still, Mills has enjoyed great success with a few basic travel tips:
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck: Help your CRAs sign up for this opportunity to be classified as low-risk travelers who can enjoy expedited security screening, especially if they do a lot of domestic or overseas plane travel. It’s an inexpensive perk with a big return. “We get great feedback about it,” says Mills.
- Airline Membership Clubs: Help CRAs join these where possible. They’ll make layovers much more pleasant. Some offer separate, concierge-type, private lounges where it’s easier to relax and be more productive writing up trip reports during the various legs of journeys.
- Bag Tags: Sounds simple, but CROs might be surprised how much traveling CRAs appreciate a distinctive tag to help them find their luggage easier as it circles a crowded baggage claim carousel.
- Luggage Expense Reimbursement: CROs can provide their CRAs some financial assistance to replace travel bags that are reaching the ends of their lifespans.
- Travel Algorithms: Help CRAs plan smart, efficient travel itineraries that build in as many day trips and regional travel routes as possible.
Mills is also a huge fan of focused training and vibrant career paths. For example, many CRAs build skills they can use to move to another position within a CRO. “CRAs can move into line management, clinical study management, medical writing,” and many other parts of the clinical research process, Mills says. At inVentiv, that’s helped him and others retain talent. “They can change jobs without changing companies,” he says.
Clearly, this is an easier task for large CROs, Mills allows, but even smaller ones can leverage this approach with portfolio management. Relatively smaller CROs can approach it from a “player/coach” perspective, in which a CRA is also able to utilize new skills to become part of other aspects of trials. Of course, workload must be carefully balanced, too.
Author: Michael Causey