Mayo Clinic Leverages Innovative Onboarding Program to Advance Workforce Professionalization

William Simmons, Educational Specialist, Mayo Clinic

William Simmons, Educational Specialist, Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic has grown its Clinical Research Workforce Development Program from about 16 employees enrolled per cohort in 2017 to as many as 30 per cohort in 2019. This growth has enabled Mayo to optimize onboarding for a broad array of clinical research professionals and boost the workforce’s productivity when engaged in the clinical trial process, says William Simmons, an education specialist at the clinic in Rochester, Minn.

With 20 years in higher education, 14 of which were spent specializing in science education, Simmons has been instrumental in augmenting how Mayo Clinic approaches workforce development programs.

Considering the challenges of implementing strong education programs, Mayo’s uptick represents significant success. “The nature of research is to maximize the value of the research that you do,” Simmons says. “You want to fail fast, if you’re going to. If you succeed, you want to succeed faster. Then, you can deliver healthcare and health products to consumers sooner. This enables us to fulfill our mission and primary value, [which is] to inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education, and research at Mayo Clinic, where the needs of the patient come first.”

According to Simmons, well-implemented education programs facilitate increased research value. “At times, research can be very reactionary, especially with education,” he says. “You want to be proactive.”

When the clinical trial process slows and research professionals are underutilized, Simmons observes that “sometimes a manager will recommend taking a class” almost as a time-filler. That’s the wrong approach, he says. Too often, “people can’t fully do their jobs because they’re waiting for necessary education. Education should be intentional. Education shouldn’t be filler,” he says. The more aligned education and training is with onboarding, the greater the value of ongoing research.

Webinar: Designing, Operationalizing and Maintaining a Comprehensive Assessment-Driven Clinical Research Orientation

Free for ACRP Members! Join Simmons and colleague Laura Hanson on June 12 as they review steps taken to develop and implement this program at Mayo Clinic, and the operational plan for sustaining these activities. This webinar will provide tools and define efforts to create and operationalize a comprehensive, competency-based, systematic Clinical Research Workforce Development Program.

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Simmons recommends programs that are comprehensive, competency-based, and systematic. Involving current staff in the onboarding process helps identify advancement opportunities. Sustained mentorship assures that support is available before it’s an acute need. While education and training ought to be formal, creating modules that are fun benefits learning and strengthens teamwork.

“Everyone learns differently, so we use a blended learning model including online learning, social media, video, classroom activities, and on-the-job previews,” suggests Simmons. Also important are assessment of workforce education gains, as is evaluation of the workforce development program itself. Such assessments promote further growth and prompt refinement of implementation practices, which, in turn, further raise research value.

“The key to Mayo’s success is that leadership has been very supportive of education,” emphasizes Simmons. Mayo Clinic was an early adopter of the belief in research education and has maintained education as a priority. The move to the current workforce development model is another step forward in Mayo’s education strategy, which, for many years, has adapted to meet changes within the broader healthcare environment.

Simmons will go into more detail in an upcoming ACRP Webinar on “Designing, Operationalizing and Maintaining a Comprehensive Assessment-Driven Clinical Research Orientation” with Laura Hanson, a senior project manager at Mayo Clinic.

Author: Michael Rizzo