Clinical Research Associates are the Backbone of Clinical Trials – How Do We Support Them?

cra turnover, contract research organization turnover, clinical trial associates, clinical research associate turnover
Clinical Research Associate


In recognition of Clinical Trials Awareness Week, Worldwide Clinical Trials will host a webinar to address the perceived high rate of turnover among qualified Clinical Research Associate (CRA) staff within the contract research organization (CRO) industry and how CROs are converting this problem into a strategic advantage – “Give Me a Reason to Stay: The Opportunities and Challenges of Retaining CRAs” on May 2, 2018.

Clinical Research Associate

Highly educated and hardworking, CRAs form the backbone of clinical research studies. However, CRA turnover is a growing headache across the pharmaceutical industry. Within CROs, CRA turnover is as high as 25% in the US and almost 23% outside the US.1  

The Role of the Clinical Research Associate

The CRA role is often a stepping stone to other roles in clinical research, such as project management or therapeutic area expert. But what kinds of career development and training opportunities help CRAs transition into these new roles within the CRO industry? How can we help our team members meet their career goals? Similarly, the CRA role itself requires many different kinds of skill sets: technical skills, like therapeutic area knowledge, understanding of the specific protocol and familiarity with GCP requirements, and “soft-skills,” including training investigators at investigator meetings or Site Initiation Visits (SIVs), planning of schedules, troubleshooting with trial sites to resolve problems, and detecting missing or misleading data during a site monitoring visit.2 How should a contract research organization recruit and train CRAs with these diverse skill sets? And, does the increasing industry focus on specialty drugs require CRAs to have even greater skill sets than in the past?

Are CRAs Ready to Support Strategic Relationships in Clinical Trials?

At Worldwide Clinical Trials, we increasingly find that our relationships with sponsors have moved on from the strictly transactional relationships of the past to much more dynamic, engaged relationships that often progress into a long-term partnerships over many clinical trial studies. However, these changes in partnering can lead to increased reliance on our CRAs to maintain dynamic relationships with our sponsors and clinical trial sites. Again, how do CROs train CRAs to be successful in this relationship-based environment?

The Travel and Training Demands of Clinical Trials Make Work-Life Balance Difficult

Work-life balance continues to be an increasing focus of employees in the modern workplace. However, the life of a CRA can include frequent travel and long hours. How do we help CRAs find the balance they are looking for and avoid burnout (which can lead to turnover)? Interestingly, while the increased reliance on electronic data capture has in some ways decreased the requirements for CRAs to check for accuracy of data transcription, they are increasingly being asked to check that the data “makes sense” or is “clinically meaningful.” This requires increased knowledge of the specific indication as well as an understanding of adverse events that may occur during the course of the study and puts increased pressure on CRAs to diversify their skill sets.

Understanding the Goals and Needs of Clinical Research Associates

Ultimately, these questions help us understand the goals and needs of our CRAs and how we as a CRO can better serve our valued team members. Register today for our May 2, 2018 webinar, “Give Me a Reason to Stay: The Opportunities and Challenges of Retaining CRAs.” We look forward to discussing these topics in recognition of Clinical Trials Awareness Week with you.


  • Hendersen L. Catch (and keep) a rising star: Clinical research talent trends. Applied Clinical Trials. 2018 March 1; 27(3).
  • Shah K. A day in the life of a monitor! Perspect Clin Res. 2012 Jan–Mar; 3(1): 32–34. doi: 10.4103/2229-3485.92305

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