A Day in The Life of A Study Coordinator

By Matron Lim Chooi Eng, CRM, Hospital Pulau Pinang (HPP)


I have always thought being a study coordinator is nothing short of the ordinary. I had done many research papers and had also been involved in many investigator initiated research papers during my nursing days and I was very confident of myself.  I was so confident of myself that I included all the abstracts of the studies that I had previously done in my folio when I went for the interview with Matron Wakia at CRM office.

The first day I reported to work at CRC Penang Hospital, I walked in with an air of superiority, thinking I know how things work and it will be a breeze working as a study coordinator.  But the bubble that was my ego was soon to burst.  Nothing in all my 38 years of nursing could prepare me for this line of work.  I discovered it is so completely different and I had to learn the ropes of a study coordinator right from scratch.

I am the proverbial dinosaur in information technology and having to perform everything online was to be the bane of all my hardships. I struggled even to key in the password to log in online. I had to enlist the help of my colleagues every time there is new access to obtain.  Imagine how much patience my colleagues had to endure to put up with my foibles. I remembered once after I had obtained access to one study IWRS portal, I thought to try out the portal to familiarize myself with it.  I was unaware that the moment I clicked on the ‘submit’ icon, I had inadvertently enrolled a patient into the study when there was none.  There was so much anxiety thereafter as we had to enlist the Global Helpdesk to cancel the enrolment in time for the next incoming subject to be enrolled.

Information Technology was indeed tough for me and I almost wanted to throw in the towel.  However, I checked myself in time.  I am not one to admit defeat easily.  My tenacity and perseverance paid off and soon I was getting more adept at the computer.  Of course I have my colleagues to thank for too.

The activities following a patient visit can also be very daunting to someone new to this line of work.  It was particularly challenging having to remember so many protocols and to identify them to that particular study. The corresponding laboratories and the different courier services contracted for each study added to the confusion.  Nevertheless, I continued to observe and “hands-on” under the supervision of my “seniors”. The day I can say I truly “graduated” was the day I was entrusted to “hold the fort” when my “seniors” had other engagements out of Penang.

Handling feasibilities, on the other hand, is my forte as I am familiar with most Principal Investigators and their specialities.  For the first few months I concentrated on getting as many feasibilities as possible to the Principal Investigators (PIs) before the targeted datelines.  We are seeing more PIs showing interest in studies and it is always a plus point for us when we get a new PI answer feasibility with a favourable response.  Nothing beats the feeling of exhilaration every time a PI show interest in a particular study.  It is akin to baiting a fish on the fishing rod and every time it is like, “Yay, we got another feasibility answered”.  We can also imagine the excitement of the feasibility specialists down at AMCORP Mall whose constant encouragement give us an added impetus to continue with our efforts.

In CRM Penang, we are truly ONE MALAYSIA.  We have every race represented here and we work together as a team.  We complement each other very well.  The expertise I have in the medical and nursing field, I impart to them.  On the other hand, their IT prowess more than make up for my lack.  My IT knowledge improved tremendously due to their diligent coaching.
I may be forgetful at times, but I am thankful that the young people in my team will often give me reminders. They are also my hands and my feet. IN HPP, space is a very precious commodity.  We are always vying for space to store our ISF, laboratory kits and specimen boxes. Very often we had to ask sponsors to purchase cabinets for the storage of these items.  Having procured them there is the added dilemma of where to place them.  We are very adept now at identifying nooks and corners to site the cabinets.

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Every single space is precious and cabinet tops are also stacked to the brim with boxes.  My collegues are most ready to climb up ladders to reach the uppermost recesses of the cabinet where my creaky bones do not permit. Having to reach down for items stored at the lowest shelf of the cabinets can be a back breaking exercise but they will do it happily for me to spare my suffering knees from injury. I am very thankful to all of them for their willingness to do that extra bit for me.

How does one gauge whether one enjoy working in a particular workplace?  I am reminded of this comparison.  If one jumps out of bed with a renewed exuberance every morning expecting a great day ahead of oneself no matter how busy the day may be, then one can truly say that workplace is “heaven on earth”.   However, if one have to drag oneself from one’s bed dreading what is ahead for the day, then one is experiencing “hell on earth”.

Well, I can say that I belong to the first category and I feel great belonging to TEAM CRM.