Never Fear, Assertiveness is an Indispensable Soft Skill for Clinical Researchers

Agnieszka Finlayson, MSc, MA, Director and Founder, White Wisteria Academy

It’s a sentiment you may have heard already at more than one gathering of research professionals who work in or with clinical trial units based (even buried) within larger academic medical centers, hospital systems, networked medical practices, and the like: The duties of trial team members, other site staff, and their vendors are performed so “behind the scenes” compared to the rest of the institutions’ activities, it can be a struggle to get their priorities and contributions noticed properly by leadership. As a result, study quality is suffering, timelines are being missed, and staff churn is increasing.

Fear not, says Agnieszka (Aga) Finlayson, MSc, MA, Founder and Director of White Wisteria Academy, who will focus on the benefits and practice of assertiveness in clinical research at the ACRP 2024 conference in Anaheim, Calif. “Broadly speaking, I want to present assertiveness as one of the underpinning soft skills that significantly impacts the clinical research workforce as well as the quality of its output,” she notes.

Through its contributions to the quality of one’s work, assertiveness is a vehicle for driving prioritization and decision making, Finlayson explains. “In essence,” she says, “it’s about so much more than the ability to say ‘no.’”

That ability to say “no” with good reason and to stick to it in the face of so many complexities in clinical operations is critical for professionals who often are juggling many studies at once and trying to spread limited resources as effectively as possible between them all, Finlayson says.

Assertiveness as an Indispensable Soft Skill for the Clinical Research Professional

Join Agnieszka at ACRP 2024 [May 3 – 6; Anaheim, CA], where she will focus on why assertiveness is a key skill for professionals to master in a clinical trials industry wracked by growing complexity and staffing challenges, and why a lack of it is hurting the quality of studies. View complete schedule.

“Usually, there are too few people for too many studies,” Finlayson adds. “This undue pressure causes high turnover from overworked staff, who make lateral movements into the same problems, thus creating a vicious downward spiral. With no simple solution to these problems, we must make the best of what we have. Therefore, to be effective in this challenging environment, clinical research professionals need to be assertive, for instance, in communicating when they are overallocated or overwhelmed in the midst of conflicting demands.”

Further, asking for help or navigating a difficult interpersonal situation with decorum and diplomacy is made that much easier by being assertive, Finlayson says. “My goal for this presentation is that the audience will gain insights from real-world examples of how things are when there is a lack of assertiveness in communication,” she explains. “I will juxtapose it with the alternative view of how things can be if clinical research professionals assert their wants and needs when called for. The audience will learn that being assertive is conducive to producing high-quality output on studies while delivering work on time.”

Edited by Gary Cramer