Step Inside Mechelen: A Day in the Life of a Regional Study Coordinator’s Project Management Role

Elien is a Senior Regional Study Coordinator (RSC), which is an associate project manager role, housed in our growing Mechelen, Belgium office for Covance Central Laboratory Services (CLS). She shared a glimpse inside a typical day as a Regional Study Coordinator, a role that manages local laboratory operations within our global project management department.

8:30-9:30 | I start each day by going through my inbox and calendar and making my to-do list.

Because we are working with a global team, we receive many emails overnight. My first task of the day is to clean out emails from previous days and organize others by priority so only action items are left – that way I can easily view my top priorities. Then I review my calendar and prepare for meetings.

This might not seem terribly exciting, but needing to start the day this way comes with a job where every day is different. As a Regional Study Coordinator, you never know what’s coming. And that’s exciting. It’s a challenge at an intellectual level. I have to ask myself, “What are the possibilities? What are the tools that I have? How can I put everything together and get the best solution for the client?” That problem-solving aspect of my job is very important to me.

9:30 – 9:45 | I check in with my mentee.

Because there is so much to learn, our onboarding and extended training program is critical to our success in this role. Part of that training is having a dedicated mentor and knowing you’ll have regular check-ins with him or her. With two years in this role, I’m ready to mentor new teammates – but I’m still learning. For example, I’m always improving my ability to process a large volume of requests in a short period of time. And I’m always getting better – and faster – at complex requests. Making time for regular check-ins with my mentees helps provide true support, but they can always ask questions as needed.

Our mentoring relationships also go beyond sharing knowledge about processing requests. When your work affects patients who need treatment, everything can feel urgent. That can be incredibly stressful so we also focus on time and stress management. I really like my job and with proper time management it feels less stressful. In fact, it’s motivating because I get to do my job as a project manager and help patients get treatment. 

How I Started At Covance
I actually would never have guessed I’d end up in a role like this, but critical thinking is something I learned in university where I studied English literature and theater. After graduating, I was ready for a change and landed a summer job with the site support team at LabCorp, the parent company of Covance. With this experience, I was promoted to a Regional Study Coordinator role, which has more responsibilities and is more focused on the project level, with the new Covance Mechelen office about two years ago.

9:30-11:30 | I work on urgent requests and follow-up on outstanding requests from previous days.

Regional Study Coordinators must keep the timeline moving for all regional local laboratory matters in a clinical trial. To ensure tasks are completed, we often need to connect (or reconnect) with internal or external stakeholders, confirm changes were completed in the database and investigate whether a result was released and take next steps. These tasks can be anything about ordering kits, results, logistics, collection instructions, visit schedules, patient information updates or data locks.

11:30-12:00 | I join our weekly team meeting.

While much of a Regional Study Coordinator’s work is independent, we are always communicating and teamwork is an important part of the job. I estimate half of my time is spent working on my own and finding things on my own; the other half is spent connecting with internal teams and my own team.

We are divided into client teams where we work on studies with the same client contacts, and thus we know each other from different studies. In our team, we have about 10 Regional Study Coordinators and we are all working on the same client studies. My team meets each week to discuss client specifics, workload, lessons learned and planned holidays for the team. This collaboration is very important to maintain a strong team connection and share important information. We cover many subjects. There is always something specific you won’t know. The key is to always ask questions to your peers and colleagues – that’s how we share knowledge and enable teamwork, which empowers us to be successful.

12:00-12:30 | I eat my lunch.

13:00-13:30 | I read the newest versions of standard operating procedures for the clinical trials I’m supporting.

A clinical study is always changing – even the protocol and standard operating procedures. These govern everything we do, so we have to stay current at all times. You have to be flexible and adaptable to be successful as a Regional Study Coordinator.

13:30-15:30 | I work on less urgent tasks.

Not everything we do is urgent, even though it often feels that way until you learn to properly assess and prioritize each task. There are repetitive tasks, like reviewing site trackers to ensure all details are correctly loaded in the Covance database, that are still incredibly important to providing the best data in a clinical study.

15:30-16:30 | I meet with my mentee.

While part of the mentoring relationship is being available to answer questions as the mentee is progressing through his or her day, it’s important to have larger blocks of time dedicated to that person as well. We do our best to maximize our time. We both collect topics during the day before (for example, a tool that I want to show my mentee, or a tool the mentee has questions about), and we address questions following requests the mentee received.

Ana was one of my first mentees. When she arrived in the office the first day, it was me that welcomed her and helped get her organized and meet with the teams. I was her point of contact.

As a new Regional Study Coordinator, it’s important to have common sense, be a critical thinker and not be afraid to ask questions. You have to be a good communicator. You must ensure the person receiving your email understands things even if they’re not aware of our terminology; you must anticipate what they do and don’t know. In your first year, it’s all about learning internal navigation: You need to gain an understanding of our environment, specifically which tools you have and how to find the information you need. You must learn what the client means in their request, and then how to find the information you need.

When I was in my previous LabCorp role in site support, I quickly developed as a mentor. But because there is so much to learn to be a good Regional Study Coordinator, it took me more than a year to be able to do the job fully on my own. Now I’m moving to the role of a trainer and mentor. That’s something I’m very passionate about because I like to see other people succeed. As a Senior Regional Study Coordinator, I’m responsible for leading team meetings, mentoring and improving processes.

16:30-17:30 | I attend a larger meeting that keeps me connected.

While an RSC manages the daily regional tasks in a clinical trial, we must stay connected to the larger group. We have a weekly meeting with all of the global project management members within our client team and we discuss global initiatives, client updates and continuous learning to ensure our individual roles are aligning with the greater goal.

All day, I multitask – but also establish my own balance.

Most of the day we are multitasking items like working on requests, connecting with colleagues, and monitoring urgent feedback and new incoming requests. It’s an important skill to have in this role.

In a job where you’re managing competing interests and evaluating priorities throughout the day, it’s important to make yourself a priority. For example, one great aspect about this role is the flexibility to work from home. I’ve found that Covance is characterized by ambitious, driven people – but we’re encouraged to do what is needed to maintain that level of excellence in our operations and customer service.

Are you interested in a rewarding career in project management?

Do you want to do work that matters and improve health and lives around the globe while using your natural abilities as a communicator? If you have a university degree and either a background in science or experience in project management, check out our Belgium-based associate project manager role called Regional Study Coordinator: https://careers.covance.com/global/en/job/35351/Regional-Study-Coordinator.