Crisis in Clinical Monitoring Jobs

What accounts for the turnover?

Clinical monitors track the health of clinical trial subjects during the event or study as well as ensure investigative sites are adhering to FDA regulations and protocol requirements.

Ed Miseta, writing in Clinical Leader, reports that the 19th Annual CRO Industry Global Compensation and Turnover Survey, carried out by HR & Survey Solutions, found that worldwide outside the U.S. the job turnover for clinical monitors climbed from 16.4 to 22.9 percent overall during 2016. This is a forty percent increase. The worst individual cases were Hong Kong, at 31 percent turnover; China with 38 percent; and Taiwan at 42 percent. In the U. S. the rate of turnover among clinical monitors stood at 25.8 percent during 2015-2016.

With so many people leaving their jobs, salaries grew also as clinical trials operators struggled to retain and attract staff. Salaries grew by 8.3 percent in 2016, while only a 3 percent increase had been expected. Nurses and technicians had the biggest gains, over 9 percent in 2016.

Many more clinical trials are being held now than in the past, while there is a shortfall of trained personnel for them. In only a year, 2016-2017, the volume of trials grew from 24,921 to an astonishing 256,544.

The survey also found that turnover in clinical monitoring hit a peak in 2011 (29.4 percent in the U.S.) and a low in 2013 (16.4 percent in the U.S.). HR shared the opinion that “The low in 2013 may have created a false sense of security in companies, since turnover has trended up in the ensuing two years.”

The shortage of clinical monitors has multiple negative impacts on CROs: a higher than optimal workload on the available personnel; diminished data and trial results; greater costs for running the trial; greater costs for subject recruitment; and lost business as potential clients note the higher turnover of a given CRO as compared to another.

Compounding the problem is the fact that unemployment is now less than 5 percent, so there are more jobs than applicants. Judy Canavan, a managing partner at HR & Survey Solutions and author of the study, said, “This is a classic example illustrating that following industry best practices does not work. “CROs need to create customized approaches to retain the right talent for their company.”

Employees leave clinical monitoring jobs both for higher pay from competing CROs and for quality of life issues. CRO managers have failed to address their needs. Since these monitors travel between clinical trial sites and are otherwise working on line from their homes, it is thought that a lack of direct contact and relationships with management may also be a factor.

Survey participants included a total of 28 public and private CROs (both large and small). According to Miseta, “Data on compensation, pay packages, and turnover were noted for the U.S. and 55 other countries. Base salaries plus incentives were recorded for 215 benchmark positions.”

He concluded, “Growth in the CRO industry is expected to continue year-over-year. Therefore, attracting and retaining key talent will remain an important factor for those research organizations that want to remain successful and attract pharma partners.”