No sample left behind

Clinical Research Coordinator. My job as a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) is to coordinate the process of obtaining samples and entering them into our database and then seeing that they get to the lab to be processed and stored for research. That is the definition – but what we do is so much more. We approach families, and our first impression sets the tone for their willingness (or their not-so-willingness) to participate. Here is our guide to what it takes to be a CRC.

Figure 1. Team photo of all our clinical research coordinators (CRCs) in the Helbig lab, taken on Noor’s last day with us before returning to the UAE.

Coercion. Obtaining samples is somewhat of an art. You must be friendly and clear, but you want to avoid bringing salesperson vibes. This is strictly an opportunity for the family to participate. Herein lies the problem: a lot of people, when given the choice, take the path of least resistance. In this case that would be a “no” to research. “But don’t you want to help your child and others?” you think to yourself. Of course, they do. But today might not be the best day. The child may not be in the mood, or the parents may have had a horrible morning and cannot fathom adding on one more task, even if it is a simple signature and painless cheek swab. We must accept this reality. They have a choice, and as a CRC I respect that choice, and would never coerce a family into participation, even if that means our numbers are low for the day.

Flexibility. Fine tuning the approach, picking up on vibes, reading the room. All in a day’s work. Excitement when you get a “yes” and disappointment when you get a “no”. The motivation is always there at the end of the day because numbers add up. Research creates change – change for the better like gene discovery or improved patient care. This is what gives meaning to my work. The parents care, I care and the researchers care. It’s my job to get them what they need to create better outcomes and better understanding.

No Sample Left Behind. Every sample matters. It all adds up and from those large sums of samples we can extract very meaningful data. We can see trends, create predictions, and find new information. Being part of this mission gives me the energy to try day after day to be the most efficient, adaptable, and resilient CRC possible.

What you need to know about being a CRC in 2023. As I mentioned earlier, it is all about flexibility, but do not underestimate the hustle. Do not underestimate how much we care about the patients that we see. There should always be a clear line separating patient from provider, and there is. But we see the struggle that families go through daily. We are not impervious to the internal conflict felt by the parents, felt by the child. We need their help, and they need ours. So, there is the motivation to help, and by being a critical part of the research team, we will help, one sample at a time.

Angela Winters

Angela is a clinical research coordinator in the Helbig Lab.