Clinical research is a challenging but highly rewarding career option. Once you find your footing in clinical research, and you’re able to gain expertise and experience in this field, there is no limit to what you can achieve professionally. To explore a career in clinical research, you first need to get the right education. An undergraduate and/or graduate level program will help you land your first job in this domain. Apart from learning and mastering the various set of processes, and research methodologies that are a part and parcel of clinical research, you need a collection of soft skills to work in the intensely collaborative environment of clinical research.
Let’s take a closer look at 15 skills that all clinical researchers worth their salt need to be armed with:
1. Good Oral and Written Communication Skills
Effective collaboration is about communication. If you aren’t able to communicate with your co-worker in a clinical environment, you won’t be able to do your job properly. If you’re a part of a team, effective communication ensures you are able to convey your views to other team members, which many times will help solve a particular problem or further enhance the adopted research procedure.
2. Time management
As a clinical researcher, you will need to perform a collection of tasks and you won’t have a lot of time to perform these tasks. You’ll need to manage your time efficiently to ensure you’re able to complete your tasks within the designated time frame. Mismanaging the time can have an adverse impact on the timeline of the research project.
3. Project Management skill sets
All seasoned clinical researchers are effective project managers as well. They have expertise in managing and controlling the project in a way that allows them to make the most of their resources and ensure they’re able to meet the pre-determined project objectives.
4. Staying Calm under Pressure
This is one skill that you need to master because you’ll be working in a pressure cook situation most of the times in a clinical research organization. Time will be at a premium and your findings will be assessed and reassessed by your supervisors. You’ll be expected to meet a certain standard of performance and if you don’t, you’ll perish. As can be imagined, this will be a lot of pressure, but you need to be able to survive. You can only do that if you remain calm in the firing line.
5. Change Management Skills
Any clinical research environment is characterized by its fluidity. You’ll be placed in one project and might be shunted off to another project for various reasons. Or you might work under one clinical research manager for a certain point of time, only to be answerable to somebody else after a period of time. This is why you need to be able to adjust to these changes quickly and efficiently. Another aspect of change management is that you must keep abreast with process changes that keep occurring off and on. The requirements and expectations will keep changing and you’ll need to adjust your persona and knowledge to adapt to these changes.
6. Eye for Detail
In clinical research every detail counts. Ignoring data just because you thought it was inconsequential might mean the difference between success and failure of a clinical research trial. In clinical research, it is usually the details that will help you zero in on the right answers.
7. Documentation Skills
At the heart of every successful clinical trial is effective documentation. Each and every aspect of the trial is documented in detail to make sure it can be referred to, if and when the need arises and every piece of data can be studied to reach the right conclusion. As a clinical researcher, documentation will be an important part of your job, and you must do it well.
8. Situation Comprehension
If you’ve been assigned a responsibility, you sometimes will need to take on-the-spot decisions. You might not have the chance or time to wait till your reporting boss is apprised of a situation and finds a solution for it. You will need to understand an unfolding situation, its challenges, and work out a solution without depending on anybody.
You need to follow time tested research methodologies, but you also need to be flexible in your approach. This flexibility should be in terms of the methodology you use to complete a particular task. If a particular approach is not working for you, you must be flexible enough to adopt another approach.
10. Team Player
You do not work alone as a clinical researcher; you’re always a part of a team. You need to be able to make yourself an integral part of the team to do your job properly. ‘The my way or the highway’ approach is not going to work in this field. You are a part of a team and need to work with your team members to bring a project to fruition.
11. Process Orientation is a Must
Being flexible and taking decisions on your feet is all well and good, but you need to be as process oriented as possible. Every clinical trial follows a specific list of processes and you will need to follow these to the last letter. If you do not, it might just lead to clinical hara-kiri.
12. Conflict Management
We’ve talked about being a team member, but there will be times when you or somebody else in the team will have problems with other team members. These could be related to the behavior of a person or can be related to the way somebody does his/her job. Such conflicts need to be resolved amicably through discussions. Conflict resolution is another important skillset every clinical researcher must have.
The sheer complexity of clinical trials and their comprehensiveness might make you want to fudge data at some point of time, especially if you want to meet a deadline. This is something you need to stay away from with a bargepole. The mark of successful clinical researchers is the credibility they bring to their tasks and their honesty. This allows them to succeed in this career.
14. Patience is the Key
A clinical researcher needs to be patient as it’s a time consuming job and results of the trial will only manifest themselves after a sufficient amount of research has been done. Also, there might be days when even the best laid plans come undone, setting you back by quite a bit. This is when your patience needs to come into play, so that you can keep doing what you are doing, without getting frustrated or irritated.
15. The Ability to Challenge your Existing Skill Sets
You’ll need to keep challenging your ability all the time, if you want to be successful in this field. Do not take things easy and fall into a rut. You can only succeed if you prove to the people who matter that you have it in you to meet all the challenges placed before you. So, challenge yourself, every step of the way.
By ensuring, you have these skill sets in your armory, you’ll be setting the stage for a really promising career in clinical research. It must be understood that such skills won’t be learnt in a day, and you will need time to build these skills. But make it a point to doso; otherwise all the clinical research knowledge in the world cannot help you meet your career goals.