Emma Bechara: Snr Clinical Research Associate (CRA)
Can you shortly describe a typical day on the job?
When you’re on a clinical trial site visit (at a clinic or hospital), a typical day involves getting to the airport on time, flying interstate, getting an uber to the site, meeting with the doctors/nurses, reviewing patient files and site files, visiting pharmacy, reviewing pharmacy files, reviewing the clinical study drugs, and following a lot of procedures and protocols.
A typical day when in the office or working from home involves checking emails, actioning items, following up on different site issues, maintaining all your files, updating trackers, completing site visit reports and site follow-up letters, plus many other tasks. You will never be bored or experience the same day twice!
Why did you choose a Clinical Research Associate (CRA) as your career? What or who inspired you to do so?
I was finishing my Bachelor of Science degree at The University of Sydney and had no idea what I wanted to do once I finished. At the time I knew that I needed a professional job in the science industry out of university.
I randomly applied for a receptionist role at a Clinical Research Organisation and within two weeks I started as their receptionist. The first time I ever heard of the role of a CRA was whilst working as the company’s receptionist.
Since then, doors of opportunity have opened-up for me and enabled me to pursue a career within the field of clinical research and allowed me to use my degree in this role. The path was not linear, I had various roles from receptionist, to Facilities and Procurement Coordinator, to Clinical Trials Assistant, to CRA and now Senior CRA. During all this, I worked for multiple companies which has now led me to my current position as a Senior CRA within the pharmaceutical industry.
What would you say are three key personality aspects or skills that make for a Clinical Research Associate?
Great time management, ability to multi-task and strong attention to detail are crucial for this role. Over time you will develop key skills in managing projects.
What have you learned about yourself through the work that you do?
I didn’t realise I have so much patience!
This job requires patience on many levels, from the length of the trials, to the amount of work to complete, to the amount of documents to review, to relying on people to get tasks done at your clinical sites, to waiting for planes and travelling to sites, and many more.
What’s been your best moment while doing your work?
Knowing that the work we do will benefit patients and advance the future of medicine.
And a really hard moment?
Reviewing a patient file where the outcome was really sad due to their condition.
How do you keep going when things get challenging?
Lots and lots of to do lists. In this job, the work never ends so you really need to know how to prioritise the important items and how to chip away at the others so that when times get challenging the stress won’t consume you and you can get the job done.
Are there any surprising or odd things that people wouldn’t expect if they picked this career?
You won’t wear a lab coat.. Whenever people ask me what I do for work, they automatically think my job involves wearing a lab coat.
Can you share a funny or weird story about something you experienced while working on a project?
I mistakenly booked the wrong date of a hotel for one of my interstate trips in Melbourne. By the time I realised I waiting to check-in at the hotel that I thought I had booked. I had to book another last-minute hotel which I didn’t realise was a hostel. Luckily, I was a lot younger so it didn’t bother me but lesson learned to always double check the dates.
What advice would you give to young people considering pursuing a career in this industry?
If you love travelling and being challenged, then you should definitely consider this as a career.
This job is extremely rewarding and challenging. Not only will you be contributing to the future of medicine, you will be able to explore Australia or New Zealand at the same time depending on the location of your clinical sites. There have been many weekends away, amazing hotels stayed at, popular restaurants dined at, and events experienced which were all planned around my work trips!
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