Just like Bobby Thomson’s home run was the “shot heard around the world,” the cry, “I Need HELP!” is the plea heard around the IRB world.
I’ve always had a passion for the very small IRBs. In my mind, I picture an IRB office staff person sitting at her desk in a small community hospital in North Dakota. A local physician has just handed her a protocol that he wants to start. She is digging through the regulations and protocol and trying very hard to maneuver through the consent form. She is also reviewing the contract, reviewing the Medicare Coverage Analysis, and trying to complete the pre-review so this protocol can be presented at the next IRB meeting.
At the 2017 Advancing Ethical Research Conference (AER17), there was more offered to those involved in small IRBs than I have ever seen. One class was completely focused on the small IRB, the problems individuals face when working within an IRB of a smaller size, and possible solutions that participants could take back to their offices and easily apply.
One of the key things this year seemed to be networking,. and we learned many ways for IRB staff to network. Here are a few:
- Don't let your business cards just sit in your desk and collect dust—hand them out! Share your business card at any opportunity you have and ask for business cards from others.. I have collected business cards over the years and I use them several timesa year when I need advice around a particular challenge.
- Take advantage of mentoring opportunities. PRIM&R has a great mentoring program. They will match you up with someone (often a person from your local area) that has experience and has agreed to provide mentoring.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel! If you are working on updating your SOPs, go to websites of other institutions and see what they have available. See if you can use the information they've already compiled. If you have questions, contact the IRB office from that institution and ask questions.
- Join the Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) Facebook page. Even if you’re not taking your CIP exam, this is a great resource for networking and learning from your peers. During exam preparation times, there are daily questions and great discussions from participants about the regulations and how institutions interpret them.
In addition to networking: read, read, read! Read any source that you can get access to and soak up any information you can find. Go to IRB forum, create a profile, and enter the discussions they have posted. Go to the OHRP website and familiarize yourself with the “Recent Compliance Oversight Determinations.” They will show you where other sites have been “dinged.”
Industry leaders such as PRIM&R, Quorum IRB, and Schulman IRB also sometimes offer free webinars. Take advantage of these. And sign up for the mailing lists of these and/or other organizations you trust so that you receive the latest notifications. I know our inboxes get full at times, but taking a moment out of your day to glance over an email might lead you to a resource that could make a huge different in your day to day work
Please know you’re not alone out there. There are probably more people in your same situation than you realize. If we work together and offer help, we can learn from each other and make the workload a little less overwhelming.
DeEtte Burns, CIP, started in the industry 18 years ago after applying to work in the medical records department of The Iowa Heart Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Eventually her career moved her to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines then to the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and she now works for Ascension Wisconsin as the senior IRB Coordinator. Her passion is helping prepare her colleagues for the CIP exam and she has been overseeing the CIP Facebook page for 6 years.