EMPACT Training and Career Advancement


Georgia CTSA's Translational Workforce Development (TWD) recognizes the need for education and support for the entire clinical and translational research workforce, beyond formally trained faculty, trainees, and fellows. The program brings together expertise in learning, performance, technology, workforce development, and clinical and translational science to:

  • Develop a Web-based career navigation platform (a proof-of-concept) to assess the learning needs of the clinical and translational science workforce and to recommend customized training and job opportunities - EMpowering Purposeful Advancement of Careers and Training (EMPACT TM, formally known as STELLAR)
  • Seek ways to extend training and career development structures to the broader clinical research workforce within the Georgia CTSA and to the national CTSA community.

TWD has designed and tested the EMPACT TM system to promote the purposeful training and career advancement of the clinical and translational science workforce. To test the development of this system, we are focusing on Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs) as our initial audience. Ultimately, the system will be a navigational tool to guide training and career development for various segments of the clinical and translational science workforce and be used by employees, training program coordinators, and employers.

System Development

TWD’s approach to system development involves rapid prototyping and progressive persona development, allowing:

  • Efficient communication among multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional collaborators
  • Accounting for the high degree of uncertainty and complexity of the project

Developing a Career Navigation System

Persona Development: Creating user profiles to guide software development

A key component of the rapid prototyping development process was creating an understanding of one of the core users: Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs). Using a process we call progressive persona development, interviews with CRCs at various levels (entry, mid-career, senior) were conducted to guide the design and development of EMPACT TMAs the interviews progressed, conducting multiple interviews across CRC levels, information was shared with the development team. Over time, a refined picture of the CRCs emerged, resulting in four primary personas.
  • Wendy, the One Woman Show
  • Stephanie, Day-to-Day Tasks
  • Satya, Focus on the Team
  • Mannara, Own the Project

The Georgia CTSA teams at Emory and UGA are working with field experts to define and categorize the competencies and skills most often used by Clinical Research Coordinators. They are creating a career navigation system that will link with trainings for this vital workforce.

While there were some differences among CRC levels in terms of expertise and skills, a common theme emerged across all Clinical Research Coordinators, “Do it all." This included recruitment and consenting, to monitoring and data management, to follow-up and end of trial report writing.

Interviews made it clear that the success of a clinical trial is in many ways dependent on the work of the CRCs, for they are the “face” that many participants associate with the project. According to one CRC, “As a CRC, [you are] constantly communicating with patients.”

The pressure of being the “face” of the project can be highly stressful and demanding work, as indicated by one CRC, “You are juggling a lot of moving parts all at once.” The CRCs also indicated that it is highly rewarding work. As one CRC stated, “If I am here for research, I am here for the future. Do whatever you can, do your best.”

Next Phase of Development

As the next phase of EMPACT TM development continues, the creation of personas will continue for other health professionals (e.g., data managers, research pharmacists). Creating personas over time and helping to inform design and development in a just-in-time approach has become an integral part of the development of EMPACT TM. Persona creation is also integral to deepening our understanding of a core group of people whose experience, skills, and dedication make clinical trials a success: Clinical Research Coordinators.

TWD is a collaborative effort between Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and the University of Georgia Mary Frances Early College of Education Research And Innovation in Learning (RAIL) Lab. TWD works with an internal advisory group including Georgia CTSA members from HR, Informatics, Evaluation & Continuous Improvement, Collaboration & Multi-Disciplinary Team Science, Georgia CTSA Clinical Research Centers, and Research Education.

© 2018-2021 University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc. and Emory University

EMPACT™ is a trademark jointly owned by the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc. and Emory University