Meetings, meetings, meetings! IRB office staff are inundated with board meetings, meetings with research investigators, and meetings associated with various working groups. The idea of calendaring additional meetings, such as a weekly all-staff meetings, may initially seem overly burdensome. When properly structured and utilized, however, weekly staff meetings cease being a challenge and become an opportunity.
Previously, staff meetings were held on a monthly basis. This led to large amounts of information being dispersed in a single meeting and lessened the opportunity for IRB staff to provide thoughtful consideration and feedback. Additionally, the extended amount of time between staff meetings made follow-up on issues or concerns impracticable.
Initially, the addition of several more meetings per month raised concerns about the time commitment. The challenge was to make the meetings meaningful by being interesting, informative, and interactive.
Now into our fourth year with weekly staff meetings, this dedication of time has evolved into a critical component to permit evaluation of office workflows, provide continuing education and professional development opportunities, and team-building.
Agendas distributed in advance of the meeting regularly include a range of recurring topics including just-in-time matters, review of new materials or guidance documents, review of online educational modules, and updates to the IRB electronic application system. The meeting is also invaluable to the development of standardized practices and procedures across regulatory teams.
Agendas also include additional opportunities for learning and engagement. Once per month, a staff member leads a Journal Club presentation on a research-related publication of interest to them. This benefits the staff through education, and the individual through professional development. We’ve also integrated technology by utilizing an anonymous survey “clicker” tool which provides a means for knowledge testing in a non-intimidating fashion.
We regularly invite speakers from other units of the research community. This has led to better understanding of institution-wide practices and advanced professional relationships.
Importantly, the staff meetings have developed as an opportunity to provide thoughtful and meaningful feedback. Individuals are able to surface concerns, ask questions, and seek resolution through collaboration and innovation. The meeting serves as an opportunity to ensure compliance, distribute pertinent information, and generally support staff members.
Offering regular opportunities for the IRB staff to come together as a team to learn and to problem solve has improved our strength as an office and as a regulatory support mechanism for human participant research.