Clinical Study Coordinator – The Perfect Transitional Life Science Career

Chelsea Weidman Burke Headshot

Chelsea Weidman Burke, Clinical Study Coordinator at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Do you know how a clinical study or clinical trial is performed? If so, you’re probably aware that in addition to a drug being studied and research being done, behind the scenes there is a Clinical Study Coordinator who is vital in the overall operations. Lately, we’ve been highlighting interesting careers in life sciences that you might not have considered. We recently interviewed Chelsea Weidman Burke, a Clinical Study Coordinator at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), to find out more about the field. Chelsea shared how being a Clinical Study Coordinator just might be the perfect, transitional, life sciences career!

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, before entering the clinical study field?

I’m a biochemist by training, having received my BS in Biochemistry from the Rochester Institute of Technology and my MS in Chemical Biology from Boston College. I was involved in academic research through college and graduate school, but I hadn’t been involved in clinical research until my current clinical study coordinator job.

2. What is a Clinical Study Coordinator? How did you become one?

A Clinical Study Coordinator (also called a clinical research or clinical trial coordinator) is a person who conducts the day-to-day activities of a clinical study under the supervision of the Principal Investigator (PI). Responsibilities include: recruiting patients, screening patients for eligibility, enrolling eligible patients, working with physicians (medical assistants and other medical professionals), and collecting/managing study-related paperwork and patient samples. [They] ensure the clinical study is conducted following Good Clinical Practice and all study-related documents are approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). I’m actually both the Clinical Study Coordinator and Laboratory Technician for my lab. I was hired after my PI’s grant for the clinical study was approved.

3. What are some of the top benefits to being a Clinical Study Coordinator?

The top benefit is definitely working towards better patient care and new treatment options. Clinical studies look at either a new drug or treatment for its utility in treating a disease, or a new application of an existing drug or treatment, all for the benefit of the patient. Being a clinical study coordinator also means that you get to interact with many different types of professionals (doctors, medical assistants, laboratory staff, researchers, etc.), which can be both challenging to facilitate communication between diverse groups and enriching to experience many different perspectives.

4. Have you noticed any new trends related to the clinical study profession?

Most Clinical Study Coordinators I know understand that this is typically a temporary position, either due to the nature of a clinical study being a fixed amount of time or the career aspirations of the coordinator. Many coordinators are interested in furthering their medical careers by pursuing medical or nursing school. This is commonly known during the coordinator hiring process, which is why most coordinator jobs are only for a few years at a time. In my case, like others, my position is funded by a grant, which has funding deadlines and therefore, a deadline on the coordinator position.

5. How competitive is it to become a Clinical Study Coordinator?

I don’t feel like it’s too competitive to become a coordinator because there are so many clinical studies happening and the turnover rate for the position is high, but you do need to have the correct background in science or medicine to be best suited for the position.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring Clinical Study Coordinators?

I would tell aspiring Clinical Study Coordinators to go for it – apply to any positions you think sound interesting. If you end up not loving the position, the short-term nature of the position means that you can change in a few years, if you want to.

Clinical Study Coordinators or Clinical Trial Coordinators are a vital part of a research initiative to test a new drug or treatment. Coordinators can be involved in many aspects of the process such as recruiting, screening, and enrolling patients into the study. They can also be tasked with conducting clinical visits with patients to collect paperwork and biological samples. The project-based, temporary nature of the role can be an excellent fit for a professional going through a career transition. If you enjoy managing documents and data in software systems, while using your scientific knowledge, this might be the position for you!

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

Chelsea Weidman Burke is a biochemist who is passionate about science communication, education, and lifelong learning. After graduating with her master’s in chemical biology, she became a Clinical Study Coordinator/Laboratory Technician at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM).

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