Lead CRA Q&A: What makes a good CTA?

I want to be the best clinical trials assistant ever

Anonymous said…
I want to be the best CTA possible, with the opportunity to become a CRA. As a Lead CRA, what qualities do you look for in a CTA? APRIL 12, 2010 2:38 PM

The Lead CRA responds…

Thanks for another great question.  You know what the problem is with all of my favorite Clinical Trial Assistants (CTAs for short)?  They are so awesome at their jobs that they get promoted and then I need to start over with a new CTA. 🙂  In all seriousness, I have a pretty standard approach to evaluating candidates for the CTA role.  Among the things I look for are relevant experience, strong organizational skills, great written and verbal communication, ability to multi-task and focus/produce, flexibility, eagerness to accept all tasks gracefully (no matter how boring), and desire to learn.

That is a big laundry list and I haven’t necessarily ranked things in order for priority so I will discuss a few of the items in more detail.

Relevant Experience: Certainly, there is some amount of training required for this role but I am looking for candidates with the correct emotional maturity and enough professional experience to operate in a dynamic, fast-paced, and stressful environment.  I don’t want to hire someone who will be preoccupied with facebook or text messaging. I need someone who can buckle down and do the work without becoming distracted.  The role is a good opportunity for a worker bee who can innovate as needed to get the job done.

Flexibility/gracefullness: A CTA has to be flexible.  The needs of the Clinical Operations group tend to change on a moment’s notice, several times a day, actually.  So when we get to work I may say to my CTA, “please prepare 40 FedEx labels and package up these lab supplies that need to go to the sites.  Report in mid-day to let me know how you are progressing with this task.” Then at 10am I may get an urgent request from an Executive to run an ad hoc report and I will need to re-focus my CTA to help me with the request.  Is the original task no longer important? Not necessarily, the FedEx drop will still occur at 4:00pm but this new special request will force us to shift our priorities.  I really do not want a CTA who will be grumpy about this because, guess what, I’m not thrilled either but that is the nature of our job.

Ideal CTA
An ideal CTA is interested in the role and
engaged in the work they are doing.

Desire to Learn:  Administrative work like taking meeting minutes, producing binders, preparing shipments, and filing/scanning Trial Master documents (all pretty routine CTA responsibilities) are a bit dull but made easier when you can understand their importance to the team and the conduct of the clinical trials.

The nature of the work is pretty administrative so the best CTA candidates are efficient, reliable, eager to please, pleasant to work with, and extremely task-oriented.

Reader questions may have been edited for spelling or grammar, for reasons of anonymity, truncated, or edited in other ways although the main content remains unchanged.

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About The Author

The Lead CRA

Nadia started The Lead CRA blog in 2007. She is now lead author for ClinOps Toolkit. Nadia is currently working as a Clinical Program Manager at a small specialty pharmaceutical company in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach Nadia via email at [email protected] anytime.


  • Kenn Jing

    October 27, 2016

    Simply needed to point out I’m just delighted that I stumbled on to your website!

  • Thank you, I find it really hard to find good CTAs for my office.

    • Dalton

      August 15, 2014

      There are no words to describe how helpful this article is.

  • The Lead CRA

    The Lead CRA

    February 10, 2011

    Rosario, Thanks so much for your comment. All of my co-workers read this blog and had so much fun teasing me about our CTAs, “Wait, who were you talking about?!?”. So I guess even though it is not on my short list, I should add that a CTA that knows how to have fun and meshes with the team will always be a welcome addition.

  • Rosario

    February 9, 2011

    Great description of a CTA!!! I would like to have several of those people at the office. But what is true is that the desire to learn is one of the key elements. I have been following your blog for a while now. I find that we do have the same challenges, no matter what country you work in. Rosario

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