BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Health professionals who work as clinical research coordinators often lack formal educational preparation for their roles, especially in international settings. To help change that, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing professors Lynda Wilson, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, and Marti Rice, Ph.D., RN, will use a $998,903 challenge grant to develop and implement a distance-based education program for international study coordinators.
The aim of this study, funded by the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center, is to have culturally adaptive, long-distance communication and learning applications for clinical research coordinators that can enhance the productivity and quality of active U.S.-international research and research-training collaborations.
"A key factor in the success of any clinical research project is the availability of knowledgeable and skilled research coordinators who can initiate and manage and complex clinical studies," Wilson said. "The responsibilities of research coordinators can vary depending on the specific study requirements and may include assisting with study planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting findings.
"Research coordinators also are vital to maintaining high scientific and ethical standards and adhering to regulations stipulated by governmental and research-funding agencies," she said.
For this grant, four courses will be developed and offered during a 30-week period each year for two years to a total 150 study coordinators from international sites. A fifth, optional course also will be developed and offered for in-depth study or development of special projects with mentoring from course faculty.
"Most research coordinators learn their roles on the job, and lack of adequate training threatens the quality of clinical research," Rice added "The increasing number of U.S.-international research collaborations brings tremendous opportunities to address global health challenges, but it also brings many challenges, including difficulty recruiting research staff with the knowledge and skills to carry out multi-site research protocols. This grant is the first step toward better and more appropriately educated research coordinators.
"We are targeting recruitment to coordinators working with the HIV Prevention Trials Network and other collaborative networks and international sites," she said. "Participants who successfully complete all four courses will receive a certificate in clinical research coordination."
Wilson said the research team is going to use several innovative distance-education strategies to help supplement course work.
"Course content will be recorded onto CD ROMS, and notebooks will be prepared for each participant," Wilson said. "Courses will be offered over the WebCT/VISTA distance-learning platform, and through this participants will be post weekly discussion-board assignments and participate in synchronous Internet-based chats and classes. The project also will include other strategies, including podcasts, text messaging to reinforce course content and the development of ePortfolios."
The program process and outcomes will be evaluated to assess changes in participants' knowledge, supervisors' ratings of changes in participants' performance, student evaluations of courses and teachers and the ability of participants to train other coordinators at their study sites to ensure program sustainability.
Ultimately, Wilson said, the goal is to demonstrate that the certificate program is effective, enhances learning and performance.
"We believe this program will be very successful, Wilson said. "In fact, we believe this same information is important to U.S.-based coordinators. In our School of Nursing we're starting at the post-baccalaureate level to offer similar courses in a 18-credit certificate program."
About the UAB School of Nursing
Building on a century of nursing education on the UAB campus, the UAB School of Nursing prepares nurse leaders to excel as clinicians, researchers and educators and advances knowledge and delivery of high-quality health care in Alabama and worldwide. The school offers leading-edge bachelor, graduate and doctoral programs and offers students the opportunity to learn with faculty and student teams across health disciplines at UAB.