The roles of clinical research coordinators (CRCs) are vital to the healthcare field—particularly in testing of medical treatments. Now, Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) is recognising their efforts and plan to set aside SGD35 million for the development of this group of professionals.

CRC: Complementing doctors and producing quality research

The large sum of money is meant to fund the wages of CRCs for the next five years. Aside this, it will be utilised to organise and execute training programmes.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Dr Lam Pin Min said that this comes as clinical research plays an ever expanding role to come up with better healthcare solutions—personalised to meet the population’s needs.

In addition, such CRCs are important because they help doctors carry out “quality clinical research that meets international standards”, he remarked, when launching the Singapore Clinical Research Institute's (SCRI) annual Scientific Symposium on 29 August.

Elaborating on their plans, Dr Lam asserted that MOH will fund salaries of 100 CRCs and introduce a string of national training and certification programmes under the Singapore Clinical Research Institute (SCRI) Academy—a virtual training academy launched at the symposium. This, he explained, was in line with the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan.

The SCRI Academy plans to zoom into CRCs with less than a year of experience to help them keep up with their responsibilities and roles. SCRI is projected to take in their first batch of apprentices in March 2018.

Virtual training adacemy to improve training

Associate Professor Teoh Yee Leong, SCRI CEO, further highlighted the key role CRCs possess in clinical research. “They are like the No. 2 after the principal investigators and they are the ones who help to coordinate the trials and manage the patients in the trials,” he reiterated.

The funding will provide newer CRCs with enhanced career stability, while the SCRI Academy will provide a proper training and career path, asserted Prof Teoh.

Also, some of the funding will be directed to ensuring all CRCs are able to clarify clinical trials in simple, layman’s terms to patients. This is secondary to the increasing complexity of trials and the rise in number of CRCs with prior training in life sciences.

“In the earlier years, many research coordinators had a nursing background and were more familiar with medical terms,” said Prof Teoh.

Tan Si Li is just one of the 500 CRCs in Singapore. New to the field with just four months of experience, she foresees training at SCRI will boost her confidence in carrying out her role.

Speaking at the symposium, she shared that “going through the programme will help me to marry the practical as well as the theory aspect of my job, and that will help me to adapt better on the ground.”

Aside from enriching new CRCs, the SCRI Academy—coupled with Workforce Singapore—will look into producing a professional conversion programme aimed at mid-career switchers without any clinical research background. They also plan on coming up with a clinical module in association with Nanyang Polytechnic. MIMS

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