4 things that Inhibit our Communication

Every CRA job description lists excellent communication skills — but how often do we think about what that means? The CRA role is task oriented and technical, however if you have poor communication skills you will be far a less effective CRA.

This is a brief look at some of things that inhibit communication. Lack of clear communication in clinical trials causes misunderstanding resulting in costly delays. It has a negative impact on efficient use of resources. In the worst case scenario subject safety can be compromised. Better communication can improve the quality of data collected and ensure the smooth conduct of clinical trials.

Lack of Clarity

It sounds simple but think about what you are saying or writing before you send an email. If you do not know the answer, double check to find the correct answer . If you provide incorrect information it can lead to errors which can impede subject recruitment, protocol adherence, and most importantly compromise subject safety. Instead you can simply acknowledge the question and indicate that you will provide answer as soon as possible. If the information is not readily available let them know how soon you can answer their questions. The worst thing is to ignore the question.

We very often communicate by email and it is extremely important that the communication is clear and factual. It may seem obvious but make sure you read your email thoroughly. This may seem like it should not be an issue but it is more often than you would imagine.

Speak and write as clearly as possible .That means do not add opinions or extraneous details. You may have to adjust your style to who you are talking to. Our industry tends to use a lot of lingo and acronyms that are specific to certain projects or to the company we work for. Make sure you adequately explain what you mean. Ensure that when you are listening not just to words but the context .

I once had a study coordinator who would say EDC when she meant the IVRS. Make sure you understand what the other person is saying. It is okay to say I am not sure I understand what you mean. Sometimes emails cannot resolve the issue. Simple as it seems picking up the phone can save time and misunderstandings. Since documentation is so important in our industry we can always follow up with an email and confirm the conversation. A quick phone call will let you know what is being missed and assist with you with how to get your message across more effectively in the future.


Another inhibitor to communication is the use of sarcasm. It is tempting to use sarcasm out of frustration when we feel the answer should already be known. Sarcasm can cause hurt feelings and is rarely helpful in getting your point across.

If you need to be sarcastic save it for conversations you are having with friends or co-workers off the record. It can be a stress reliever but it is not useful in the work place.


The sister to sarcasm is negativity. The life of a CRA can be very stressful. We juggle multiple priorities and travel frequently. We can suffer from sheer exhaustion both mental and physical Many times it feels like we can never do enough and that others do not understand what we do. This can lead to irritability and frustration and feelings of negativity.

Finding yourself constantly complaining to co-workers or expressing negativity means you are reaching a stage of burn out. Constant complaining without positive resolution will destroy your relationships with your co-workers and it can cause people to not listen to you. You will not hear what others are saying because of your preoccupation with negativity.

We all have to vent sometimes but doing it loudly and frequently can be harmful to your own morale and that of your co-workers. Try to make sure you are giving yourself a break so you do not reach the point where you are unable to make a positive contribution to your team.

Crisis Building

Another inhibitor to effective communication is crisis building. This is what I call the sky is falling syndrome. Responding to every situation as if it will have the most dire outcome makes our communications fractured and not well thought out. People will not listen to you because you have used up all of your capital on minor issues.

When you really have a serious issue to discuss you will not be listened to in the same way. Sometimes this kind communication comes from others. If you can respond to this kind of interaction without falling in to the trap of internalizing the stress you will be much more effective as a CRA. This does not mean we should not respond minor issues before they become major problems. It means that every issue does not require the same level of intensity.

Always being in a crisis mode leads to poor decision making.


We all have at one time or another had an issue that was created or exacerbated by poor communication so it is important to review periodically ways we can improve our communication skills and implement them in our daily interactions.

How have you seen communication inhibited, and how did you overcome it?

About The Author

Heidi Thaw

Heidi Thaw is a CRA based in Wichita, Kansas. Heidi has extensive experience in the conduct and monitoring of clinical drug trials having performed hundreds of monitoring visits for dozens of sponsors in her 15+ year career. Heidi received her Bachelor of Arts in history from Bethel College. Heidi's communication style and background in behavioral health make her an excellent addition to any team; she is accountable, agreeable, and thorough in her work. When she isn't traveling to site visits, Heidi loves to spend time with her nieces and nephews, write in her journal, and kick back and relax. You can contact Heidi via email at [email protected] anytime.

Leave A Response