AstraZeneca Harnesses Core Competencies to Drive Quality, Create Career Paths

Doug Schantz, MICP, BA, Executive Director, Clinical Operations, AstraZeneca

Doug Schantz, MICP, BA, Executive Director, Clinical Operations, AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca (AZ) is actively leveraging new core competencies to better train, retain, and inspire clinical trial practitioners to new levels of quality in every aspect of its clinical trials, says Doug Schantz, MICP, BA, executive director, clinical operations.

Rejecting the current model of tenure-driving career advancement, Schantz says core competencies are giving AZ’s growing trial workforce new opportunities to develop career paths that will maximize their skills and professional opportunities.

“It must be frustrating and dissatisfying to have to wait two years” when you know you are already fully prepared to take the next step in your career, he told attendees of “Signature Session: Advances in Competence and Career Path Standardizations Initiatives” this morning at ACRP’s 2018 Conference in National Harbor, Md.

Over the past year or so, AZ has been bringing its clinical research coordinators (CRCs) in-house. It will use standards-based competencies to assess the performance of new team members, he said.

Competencies make it much easier to onboard college graduates or other entrants new to the industry, he said. “It’s a great framework,” Schantz added. AZ plans to bring in some 20 monitors in 2018.

However, competencies are not about identifying professional failures, Beth Harper, workforce innovation officer with the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP), told attendees. “They are about identifying gaps” and helping CRCs find the right kind of training that will help them learn the new skills and, if it’s their goal, move on to the next level in their career path.

With established competencies, “you learn what you need to do to prepare for the future,” Schantz added, also stressing that competency-levels are about advancing careers and not punishing anyone for knowledge gaps. “I wish I’d had this list of competencies years ago when I entered the field to help me identify what I needed to learn.”

“Being paid to learn is a big inducement” when trying to entice the best of the best in the workforce, said Jennifer Byrne, former CEO of PMG Research and co-founder of Greater Gift.

“ACRP has made a commitment to these competencies,” Byrne said. The positive industry response “tells us there is an enormous need for it.”

Byrne also praised the activities of the collaborative ACRP Workforce Innovation Steering Committee (WISC). “It’s bringing together diverse stakeholders and giving everyone the opportunity to be heard,” she said.  Members include study sponsors, contract research organizations (CROs), clinical trial sites, academic research institutions, and regulatory agencies.

ACRP is also working with the Joint Task Force for Clinical Trial Competency (JTF), a broad consortium formed in 2013 to bring in as many voices and perspectives as possible, with the goal of emerging with across-the-board standards applicable to clinical trial professionals throughout the trial process.

“ACRP was the group to pick up on these competencies more than any other group, and publicized them and integrated them into its activities,” said Stephen A. Sonstein, PhD, director of clinical research administration at Eastern Michigan University and one of the leaders of the JTF.

Byrne cited another important plus: Establishing, promoting, and using core competencies to drive professional advancement and development will build “public trust” in clinical trials.

Author: Michael Causey