Feedback from recent hires over the past several years revealed that our training for new IRB employees could be improved. Primary concerns were the inequality in both the amount of co-worker guidance and the comprehensiveness of regulatory textual review. Ultimately all staff members attained proficiency, but the noted inconsistencies led to two primary consequences: disparity in performance over the first few months of employment, and variance in the time before a new hire could undertake all of his or her responsibilities.
To address these concerns we developed a standardized training program for all new staff members. The training consists of 15 distinct modules that are completed over the course of 11 workdays. On the first day, a new employee is directed to a website which houses all of the modules along with other helpful information such as acronym lists, contact information, and links to human resource information. The online material can be accessed from any location at any time, having the added benefit of allowing training to begin even if other technical glitches arise.
The key to the program is the structure of the modules and how they combine one-on-one instruction by experienced staff with directed textual readings. The modules are organized to gradually progress from making basic determinations of what constitutes human subjects research all the way to guiding a new full-board study through the review process. For most of the modules, the experienced staff member is expected to instruct the new hire in practical matters, such as navigating the electronic records system and tips about being efficient and organized; this adds hands-on knowledge and leads to consistency in practice. Alongside the personal instruction is the textual material within each module which is designed to direct the new employee to the relevant regulations and policies that are crucial for an IRB professional.
The effectiveness of this training program was analyzed according to staff feedback and internal audit data. Ultimately, it has proven to address both aforementioned concerns: it reduced the number of errors during the first months of employment and it has helped new employees get up to speed and assume their responsibilities within two weeks. Although not the primary objectives, this program has also strengthened coworker relationships and it has served as a refresher course for many of our current staff.