Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don't call me...I'll call you!

I have a beef to pick. And not the tasty kind with steak sauce.

A bit of an explanation, then back to the beef--it is what's for dinner, after all. I work at an IRB. That means Institutional Review Board. (What, that's not enough explanation for you?) Ok, here's what I do: I review medical research protocols and consent forms to make sure they fit the rules. And not just any medical research...the kind that's done on people. Who knew that a few bucks or the promise for some miracle drug could convince people to do crazy things to their bodies? Ultimately, our goal at the IRB is to make sure people are not harmed in the making of this film--wait, rewind. Ultimately our goal is to make sure people are fully informed of what is actually going to be taking place once they've signed up to play guinea pig. I am a 'coordinator,' which means that I put together one meeting a month (where research is reviewed and approved), and I act as the liaison between study teams (doctors and their lackeys) and the actual board reviewers (doctors).

So to recap: I review studies and push them through the process of getting approved at a board meeting. Thrilling, right? I feel a disclaimer is in order here: **DISCLAIMER** I like my job and the people I work with. It's like coming to spend the day with your friends and solving crazy problems together. And they pay me for it!

Lately we've been experiencing what we've been labeling an 'unusually large number of applications' being submitted. What this actually means is that we're being inundated with all sorts of crap--new studies, changes (aka amendments) to studies (which also have to be approved by a board), and renewals (each year studies have to go back to board to get re-approved). We've been vacillating between that complete drowning feeling and the sense of getting tiny breaths above water to tide you over until the next wave hits. You get thisclose to feeling caught up, and less than a week later you're back to feeling the weight of 50-some odd studies, each with their own delightful set of issues waiting to be unlocked as you review them, grueling one by grueling one.

So yes, we've been struggling. Kind of hardcore. To put it in a numbers perspective, we get about 40 - 50 studies discussed at our meeting each week. A couple months ago, I started out with over 100 items on a board meeting agenda before it was finalized down to about 44 items. All in all, this just means we never get to see that rapturous light at the end of the tunnel (wait, doesn't that phrase mean that you're dying?).

I'd like to compare it to an episode of I Love Lucy (you know the one)...

Boiled down, a hold-up at the IRB means bad news for everyone. Study teams get their panties in a twist, passive aggressive emails start flying, we here at the IRB get all up in arms doing everything we can to help aid the process.

Enter study team coordinators. Literally. Our office isn't very conducive to the drop-by visit. I share a very large room with three other IRB coordinators, and so we don't usually have those people involved in the actual research come by to discuss studies. Most of our correspondence is done via email, with minimal phone discussion to supplement. I guess recently with all of the hold-ups, though, study coordinators have decided to revolt. In the year plus that I've been working here, I haven't had anyone come back to my humble cubicle to protest how long things are taking...until now. In the past two weeks, I've had three of the most persistent (read: annoying) coordinators hunt me down and practically demand that their study take precedence over everything else I'm doing.

I have something to say to these people: STOP.

1) Having you watching over my shoulder as I pull up your study only makes me feel like a deer caught in the headlights. I don't handle confrontation well.

2) I probably haven't looked at your study in awhile, so it's going to take me a minute to reacquaint myself with it. You rambling on in my ear about your problems isn't helping your case at all.

3) I have at least 100 studies at a time that I'm juggling, all of them in different states. The fact that you think you can waltz in here and get something done on your study immediately undermines the rest of everyone else who's waiting in line. Hello lunch line butt-er? Not cool.

4) Thanks, you've just thrown off my work groove. (I'm sorry, but you've thrown off the emperor's groove...)

And as long as I'm putting it out there to the universe (and to any study coordinators who may have stumbled across my blog), I beg of you: stop 'tattling' on me to my boss. He's on my side. I've done everything I can to help your stupid study through, so how about you do a girl a favor and NOT throw me under the bus? Trust me, I don't want to hold onto your study. I really treasure the times I am able to send out approval letters and move things to the done pile. But if you can't be bothered to do your job correctly or pay me the common courtesy of discussing things civilly with ME, you should probably face some consequences. Like having your boss (the doctor doing the research) get called up for a 'special meeting' with my boss. (It's like the grown-up version of "My dad can beat up your dad.")

I keep hearing around here, "In a few months, it'll be better." And I know it will be; we're hiring new people and making other changes that will ease the IRB process. But in the interim, I might need to keep a stash of chocolate in my desk for the moments when I just need to unwind. Or a punching bag with someone's face on it...


Blogger heidikins said...

cUgh--this doesn't sound pleasant at all. (The unexpected, obnoxious drop-ins, that is. Your job sounds just lovley, actually.)


July 13, 2010 at 4:28 PM

Blogger Laceski said...

I hear ya, sister (and not just because I sit about 8 feet away from you and your visitors). Ugh...

July 14, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Blogger Lindsay said...

I vote for the punching bag with someone's face on it. You work out your physical aggression AND you burn off calories so the chocolate doesn't do too much damage. Good luck with it all!

July 14, 2010 at 11:02 AM


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