How to Make Clinical Research Mentor Programs Work

Elizabeth Weeks-Rowe, LVN, CCRA

Forget the cliché of the “wise, older” employee who takes a newbie under his or her wing. “I’ve had mentors younger than me and it’s worked out great,” says Elizabeth Weeks-Rowe, LVN, CCRA, who works out of San Diego, Calif., as a principal clinical research associate in study start-up for a major contract research organization (CRO).

What made that mentorship work? Clear goals and a solid arrangement to meet on a certain day, at a certain time, and at an agreed-upon frequency. “If both mentor and mentee aren’t committed, it will be obvious right away,” says Weeks-Rowe, who also is experienced in clinical research training and writing. Meetings can be equally successful when done face to face, via Skype, or over the phone. Consistency is more important than the communication tool.

While larger CROs tend to have personnel in place to develop a mentor program, smaller operations are sometimes “intimidated” because they think the program is too complicated to be worth doing. That’s a mistake, says Weeks-Rowe. A relatively simple two-page document spelling out specific goals and matching the right personnel with each other can turn the mentor program into a smooth running, low-maintenance machine.

Learn the key elements of a successful clinical research mentoring program during Weeks-Rowe’s ACRP 2017 Meeting & Expo session, How to Create, Structure, and Implement a Mentoring Program Within Your Clinical Research Organization and Practice. Gain insights into best practices for selecting and training mentors, integrating mentoring and clinical research training into your trial monitoring and conduct activities, and measuring the long-term positive impact of mentoring on your employees and organization. View Program & Schedule

ACRP 2017 Meeting & Expo

Weeks-Rowe found that her time being mentored was effective, in part, because she could work with her employer and potential mentors to identify specific end goals. “[The first time], I was a new oncology monitor, and my mentor was able to shadow me and help me with particular tasks,” she recalls.

Personality is a big factor, too. Sometimes mentor and mentee simply aren’t a good fit. A successful mentor program will make it clear to everyone that it’s all right for one or the other participant to say they might benefit from working with someone else. “It has to be okay if it doesn’t work” in the corporate culture, Weeks-Rowe says.

Mentorship programs should also “vet” the mentee. In some cases, new employees might not actually need mentors; they might only be applying for the program because they think they need to demonstrate interest and commitment.

Finally, Weeks-Rowe offers up a bit of common sense too often forgotten: Don’t let subpar performers become mentors. “That’s not good for anyone,” she warns.

Author: Michael Causey