We Must Do Better: Tackling the Clinical Research Workforce Crisis
The clinical research industry is on the brink of a severe staffing crisis. A shortage of qualified professionals in this field has reached a point of urgency that demands immediate attention.
The Current Landscape
The clinical research sector faces an unprecedented workforce challenge, with growth projections that outstrip the availability of a diverse and research-ready workforce, as Susan Landis, Executive Director of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP), emphasises. In a recent Sage journal article “Now is the time to fix the clinical research workforce crisis” by Stephanie A Freel et all, dated June 2, 2023, they discuss this widening gap between supply and demand for competent staff. Recruiters are confronted with unprecedented difficulties in finding qualified medical professionals to meet the industry’s burgeoning demands.
The crisis in the workforce has a multi-layer impact on the industry as a whole. The current workforce is overburdened due to being under-resourced and that leads to a higher resignation rate. There is a “war for talent” as the stakeholders fight to employ talent. Smaller research organisations grapple with the challenge of competing with larger Contract Research Organisations (CROs) and pharmaceutical companies for recruiting and retaining talent. Smaller entities often lack the resources required to attract skilled professionals effectively. This poaching of the workforce leads to an unsustainable level of turnover.
Site based staff are lured away from sites to larger pharma / CRO that offers better pay and prospects, but this again leads to the entire industry that suffers, as sites are the backbone of clinical research operations. If sites are under-resourced and left with inexperienced and incompetent staff this has a direct impact on the quality of clinical research as a whole, including GCP compliance and the integrity of the data.
This in itself can slow down the whole clinical research landscape with a direct impact on medical progress as an end result.
Adding a layer of complexity to the situation, Suzanne Kincaid, COO at Aperio Clinical Outcomes, observes the emergence of “zombie candidates.” These individuals present fake credentials and receive coaching through earpieces during job interviews, introducing a novel challenge to the talent acquisition process.
The persistent requirement for a fixed number of years of experience in entry-level job descriptions serves as a significant entry barrier. This stringent prerequisite hinders potentially qualified individuals from joining the clinical research workforce and creates a disconnect between the industry’s needs and entry requirements. Experience in itself does not imply competence.
To address the experience requirement, the industry leaders and policy makers need to start to support a shift from a fixation on the number of years to evaluating candidates based on competency domains. This approach can expand the pool of potential talent and ensure that entrants are well-prepared for the field.
In addition, promoting diversity in clinical research is an essential solution to bridge the workforce gap. Embracing diversity not only aligns with industry inclusivity goals but also fosters innovation.
The Role of TASK Research Academy
In this turbulent landscape, TASK Research Academy emerges as a beacon of hope. The academy introduces individuals to the clinical research field and the various roles within the sector. They educate and equip the individual with the skills and knowledge necessary for success, through their immersive training techniques and a simulation based teaching approach to foster competency. It recognizes the importance of industry collaboration in addressing the workforce shortage.
The clinical research industry is teetering on the edge of an impending workforce crisis. Urgent action is needed to rectify the situation. By reevaluating entry requirements, fostering diversity, and actively promoting the field among students, the industry can address these challenges. TASK Research Academy plays a crucial role in this effort, offering hope in the industry’s quest to bridge the workforce gap and continue delivering innovative treatments to those in need.