Good clinical monitors are hard to find—and even harder to keep. If you’ve been experiencing this challenge at your sites, you’re not alone.
Recent research underscores the problem and sheds light on the most common reasons for turnover among monitors in clinical research.
A 2020 survey by BDO’s Global Employer Services Practices includes findings from the United States and 55 other countries. Here are a few of the most surprising statistics.
What Is The Average Turnover Rate Among Clinical Monitors?
The average turnover rate among clinical monitors at contract research organizations (CROs) in the US hit a five-year high of nearly 30% in 2018, an increase from 25% in the previous years.
That’s significantly higher than the average annual turnover rate among all US industries, estimated at 19%. It’s also much higher than the average turnover rate outside the US, which appeared to be trending downward at 16% in 2018.
Globally, clinical monitoring turnover was highest in Ireland (33%), China (32%) and Sweden (30%). In each of those countries, the percentages represented a decrease from the previous year.
Source: BDO Insights Report: CRO Industry
What Are The Most Common Reasons For Turnover?
The survey identified several factors leading to higher rates of turnover among clinical monitors at CROs. They include:
High Expectations And A Steep Learning Curve
Clinical monitors are often expected to handle heavy workloads with little to no formal training. Much of what they learn is through on-the-job experience, but they learn quickly, which increases their value in the marketplace, according to the report.
Desire For Higher Pay
As monitors take on greater responsibilities, they expect to receive higher compensation. BDO’s research found clinical monitor salaries have fallen somewhat behind other professions. CROs’ salary increase budgets have been 3% or less over the past five years, which is slightly lower than the general average across all industries.
But the more significant factor may be a gap in monitors’ skills versus their pay. After three years of field experience, monitors’ skills begin to outpace their earnings. The gap only widens after five or more years on the job.
As monitors become increasingly valuable to their organizations, many do not feel they are being compensated accordingly.
Source: BDO Insights Report: CRO Industry
Mergers And Acquisitions
The contract research industry has experienced substantial disruption in recent years, as the BDO report highlights. When a merger or acquisition occurs, clinical monitors may lose long-established relationships with clients or colleagues. This contributes to feelings of uneasiness and uncertainty about their role at an organization.
A Challenging Work/Life Balance
Clinical monitoring often involves extensive travel, long hours and spending time reviewing data or completing reports after spending time at research sites. This can make it difficult for monitors to juggle the responsibilities of the job with other priorities.
The increase in remote clinical monitoring—especially in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic—could reduce travel time for monitors and enable them to have a better work/life balance.
How Does Turnover Impact Clinical Research?
When a clinical monitor leaves, the cost of recruiting, onboarding and training a replacement can be substantial. The Society of Human Resource Management estimates these costs to be about 33% of an employee’s annual salary.
That doesn’t account for the loss of institutional knowledge, established relationships and productivity, which can easily double the cost of turnover.
When your company is working with a CRO, turnover among monitors can lead to inconsistencies at your sites and communication breakdowns. This can ultimately cause data discrepancies or delays in your project schedule.
How Can You Minimize The Impact Of Turnover?
If you use in-house monitors, make sure your compensation structure is in line with comparable industries. You can look at salary benchmarking data from a provider like PayScale to ensure you are paying competitive wages.
If you’re hiring a CRO for monitoring services, look for one with historically lower turnover rates.
This is something you can ask during the vetting process.
Ask how long their monitors have been employed there on average, as well as how long they’ve been in the field and what experience they had previously.
Ideally, you should look for a CRO that has monitors with a variety of therapeutic expertise and at least a few years of experience in the field.
At IMARC Research, we take pride in the fact that our medical device CRO’s turnover rate is considerably lower than the industry average. Our organization began over two decades ago with monitoring as its foundation. Although we have since expanded our services to include auditing, project management, training, data management and other important functions, monitoring remains our core focus.
We hire monitors with expertise, field experience and exceptional critical thinking skills so they can make the best decisions even when the answer isn’t obvious.
We also train them in the fundamentals of clinical research regulations and best practices to ensure they use a consistent approach at every study and every site.
To learn more about how our monitoring services can help you minimize the impact of turnover, contact us today.