A Look Inside the Role of Clinical Research Coordinator
Hello! I’m Dr. Jeff Kingsley and this is another edition of Riding in Cars With Researchers. Today we are going to interview Kaitlyn Roberson, MPAH, CCRC. She currently manages our research site at Gastrointestinal Diseases, Inc., in Columbus, GA and coordinates all research trials for such diseases as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. She was featured last week in our social media series on our partnership with Gastrointestinal Diseases, Inc. Kaitlyn is a stellar research coordinator who has now moved into management as which happens with stellar research coordinators.
Talk to us about how you become involved in clinical research.
I will have been with the company for four years at the end of this month after coming to the company fresh out of grad school. I wasn’t really sure which direction I wanted to go as my background is in health administration. Of course, in health administration, you don’t have a lot of experience having been in classes with people who are already in the industry. So it’s really difficult that avenue and figure out where I wanted to go. By happenstance I went to a job interview with another physician in Columbus and the person interviewing me told me I needed to look into this other company because you are perfectly qualified to work there. They encouraged me to “reach out to them instead of interviewing further with us.” It was kind of a catch-22 because I would have to do this over again. But I interviewed with IACT (called SERRG at the time) and I was hired a few months later. It was a match, instantly. I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Benefits of Being in Research
Why? What is it that makes you stay in research?
It’s interesting. I had no idea the facility existed before I was told about it. It’s one of those things where unless you are in it you don’t think about where this drug came from or why is on the market and how did it get there? This is the kind of thing they don’t teach you in grad school. It’s just one of those things where I get to say to someone, “Hey I’m a clinical research coordinator” and I’m met with questions such as “What is that and why do you do that?” You gain more experience you normally would not as while I’m not a nurse by trade, I am doing things most nurses are doing in the hospital. I’m seeing things I would never see otherwise. Some people who work in a hospital wouldn’t get to see unless they work in that field. For example, colonoscopies or liver biopsies. With my background, when would I ever have the opportunity to watch those? I’m learning something new every day and sometimes I feel like I should have just gone to medical school.
What Makes Research Interesting?
Nice! And you could totally do it, too! Now you just mentioned a few of your favorite things. You mentioned you get to see new things, it’s always different. You see things you wouldn’t get to see in so many other roles even within healthcare. What are some of your other favorite things about research? What are some other things that make it so unique and so interesting to you?
I love the patient interaction. Working in a doctor’s office you may see one patient one day and you don’t see them again for another three months, or even yearly. In research, you are seeing them weekly, 2-3 times a month, monthly, and sometimes more than that. And it’s not just for thirty minutes or an hour. It can be upwards of six hours at a time that you are spending with these patients. You really develop a kind of family type relationship with them. I have patients who ask me about my personal life, ask me how I’m doing, and can even tell if I’m having an off day. You develop a cohesive relationship which really gives you better patient care in the long run as they are comfortable enough with you not to just be your patient, but be your friend.
The Challenges of Being in Research
Yes, I agree with that. I had a patient this morning who just graduated and I’ve been seeing her every week for three months now. And all of a sudden she will go to every three months. So this morning I said to her that I can’t believe I won’t see her except every three months after seeing her every week! Okay, so research is not all flowers blooming and butterflies flying around. It’s got its challenges. Talk to us about the challenges of being in research.”
For the past year or so it seems like I’ve been receiving really difficult trials. Not that it’s a bad thing until it comes to a point of finding that one patient. I feel like I’m looking for a needle in a haystack sometimes. And then when you finally find that patient and you get them on the study drug and everything is going great, something happens and they can’t continue to be in the study anymore. That one patient you’ve been looking for for over a year is suddenly gone. So you have to start back over to square one and just start looking again.
Yes, I’ve said that for years. Research can be immensely frustrating because you can be doing so much work to just find that one person to make it into a trial and if you’re not finding a bunch of patients, all of that work kind of goes unrewarded. And that can be frustrating. It takes a certain type of person to persevere. Other challenges?
When that enrollment period closing is nearing and you have that patient where you couldn’t catch sooner and you realize that they are going to miss this go-round because of XYZ. There was a patient we saw last week who was in exacerbation and we told her she wouldn’t be able to go into the study because it closed before we could get her in it.
Why Consider a Career in Research?
Okay, what advice would you give to people who are watching, people who are in research or people who are considering a career in research?
I say go for it! You will be exposed to so many things you will never have the opportunity to do previously. You will gain so much more knowledge than in anything else I can really think of. Just take the chance! I know it may seem scary. For me, my first week in I asked myself what am I getting myself into? Especially when the model takes you quite a bit of time. It’s a learning experience every single day. I’m still learning something new even though I’m in a management role there’s not a single day that goes by when I’m not learning something new about research, about the healthcare industry in general, about billing and coding and things like that. It’s just a well-rounded field that you should definitely go for.
Okay, there you have it! Kaitlyn’s advice is to go for it! Get involved in research! It might be scary because you don’t have a lot of experience, hear about research, or know other people in research. Go for it, you’re going to love it! Kaitlyn, thank you very much, I appreciate it!
Thanks for riding along!
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