It’s no secret that the workforce shortage in clinical research is a significant industry issue. Nicole Mills, SCRS Education and Knowledge Management Lead shared that according to CareerBuilder, there are currently 6.6 million clinical research jobs posted in the U.S., yet only 5.7 million available hires, which means almost one million more jobs are available than talent available nationwide. The issue is exacerbated when companies need specific skill sets or experience levels.
For every 1 clinical research coordinator (CRC) looking for a job, there are 7 jobs posted. For nurses, it’s a 1 to 10 ratio. For regulatory affairs, it’s 1 in 35. These numbers can vary drastically by city or state as well. For example, when looking at data for California, there are 5,000 clinical research jobs but only 1,400 clinical research professionals looking for jobs.
As of July 2022, there were 62,000 new job postings for clinical research roles and 17,000 of them were “unique” – meaning they didn’t fit a traditional clinical research coordinator-type role. Companies are diversifying traditional roles of coordinators while adding more roles such as home health nurses, IT compliance, regulatory data management, and other positions for adapting to new technologies and protocols.
Sites are having to get creative when it comes to hiring, whether that be salary negotiations or offering additional incentives such as hybrid scheduling or remote work. Additionally, sites in certain cities where the cost of living is higher are having to offer increased salaries to recruit new staff. These same sites are often competing with CROs and Sponsors that have higher budgets for salaries and sign-on bonuses, which can make recruiting especially challenging. Out of the 2,400 open positions that listed salaries, $82,000 was the median salary for a clinical research coordinator, with the range anywhere from $40,000 up to $120,000. David Vulcano, SCRS Honorary President and Vice President of Research Compliance and Integrity at HCA Healthcare shared that compensation has increased approximately 40-60% from pre-pandemic levels, which not only includes salaries but also retention bonuses and other benefits.
Not all sites can meet the salary and benefit options that other organizations may offer, which contributes to high turnover among site staff. SCRS gathered anecdotal data regarding site staff retention and found the turnover rate has increased 2-3x from pre-pandemic levels. When study coordinators leave, it can take 6-12 months for sites to get back on track with that study.
SCRS and industry partners have discussed offering a study continuity plan to help minimize the impact to the site and study when coordinators are recruited by a Sponsor or CRO. The continuity plan would be offered by the Sponsor or CRO if that organization recruits a coordinator from the site.
Many organizations are having to adjust expectations for the roles they need. They may hire someone without clinical research experience but with therapeutic area experience or vice versa. Looking for transferrable skills from a general healthcare background or other industries is also becoming more prevalent. Candidates with experience in project management, administrative, or technology-related roles are helping bridge the gap. However, those hires typically require additional training on all the aspects of clinical research, which some sites may not have the time to manage.
How do we alleviate some of the training issues for sites and make it easier to hire people who have less experience, or that come from other industries? SCRS created a Workforce Task Force with a site toolkit to help address this issue. The toolkit shares solutions for sites to train more efficiently, retain current staff, manage budgets and cash flow, and what additional benefits to consider such as childcare, more flexible schedules, work-from-home days, transportation options and employee recognition programs.
Ultimately, we need new avenues into our industry. Awareness of clinical research is at an all-time high due to the clinical studies involving COVID-19 vaccines and this can be used to encourage more people to enter clinical research. Working with nurse education centers and universities is underway for several industry organizations already.
The workforce will continue to be a hot topic of discussion as we look for more solutions to address current challenges. Watch the Sites NOW discussion recording here and join us for the next Sites NOW meeting to be a part of the conversation!