Clinical Trial Technology Personnel Need Career Paths, Enhanced Training

Bree Burks, RN, MSN, Vice President of Strategy, Veeva Systems

Technology has become an integral part of clinical trial operations, and it’s high time those personnel tasked with handling and managing it were better trained and recognized for their efforts, says Bree Burks, RN, MSN, vice president of strategy in the site solutions realm with Veeva Systems.

“We haven’t done a good job in this industry” when it comes to providing technology practitioners in clinical trials with the kind of training and career paths they need and deserve, Burks notes.

In addition to squandering some of technology’s benefits—such as more efficient operations and more robust data flows—Burks believes the clinical trial industry risks a technology “brain drain” in terms of those who are toiling in technology at sites today opting to jump ship for new settings where their skills are more valued, reinforced, and rewarded.

“We’ve got to keep these good technology performers at research sites,” Burks says. “So far, we haven’t done a good job developing them, and it’s not fair to them” as professionals.”

Too often today, a site might identify an employee with some knack for handling technology, then basically “throw them to the wolves” to fend for themselves, Burks explains. Those sites are “slapping together” ways to adapt technology to their operations. “They’re giving it a google” rather than coming up with a tailored, competency-based approach, Burks warns.


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Burks applauds work done by the Joint Task Force for Clinical Trial Competency, ACRP, and others focused on advancing core competencies and further professionalizing the trial workforce, but notes, “We have a long way to go, a lot of work to do, and this is really the raising awareness time.”

From a quality and risk perspective, Burks says, it’s not a good strategy for sites not to focus more on grooming tech-savvy employees. “We need to go from a data management mindset to a broader understanding of business intelligence” and how technology fits into advancing clinical trial performance, she advises.

Too many sites “are bogged down with technology [today], when it should be enabling them,” adds Mel Johnson, associate director for product marketing in site solutions with Veeva Systems.

“Technology is no longer just an option in clinical trials,” says Burks. “It has to be in your strategy.”

Author: Michael Causey