Article: On Becoming A Certified IRB Professional

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On Becoming a Certified IRB Professional

by Corinne Rogers (as published in PRIM&R's Member Newsletter in July 2007)

Corinne Rogers, CIP Having been out of grad school for longer than I care to remember, the idea of sitting for a four-hour standardized exam was not exactly on my "Top 10 list" of things I most wanted to do. Becoming a CIP® was on that list, however, although that didn't stop me from trying to avoid taking the exam for as long as I could after I met the two-year IRB work experience requirement. Not because I didn’t appreciate the value of being certified or because I'm some kind of un-motivated slacker who has no interest in improvement or moving ahead. Quite the contrary, I've always been driven and ambitious, particularly in the workplace, and confident that I knew what to do to keep moving myself forward. So I knew it was important, I knew it was the next logical step towards advancing myself in this career, I knew I wanted to be counted among the ranks of those already certified, I knew all these things. What I also knew was that it would be hard - that there would be a lot of preparation and studying involved. What I didn’t know…was where to start. And that’s when I lost my mind.

Despite oozing all that "alleged" afore-mentioned drive, ambition and confidence, I quickly became a full-fledged stress-case in trying to figure out exactly what to study while simultaneously trying to push the worst-case scenario, "Oh my God what if I fail?" nightmares from my mind. What should I focus on? The history? Administrative/office procedures? The federal regulations? Should I memorize them? What state should I move to if I fail? I kept picturing myself in my new career behind some counter asking "you want fries with that?" How was I going to make that transition? I'd need to buy all new clothes and get a different hairstyle. I’d have to start wearing ice blue eye shadow and "Pepto" pink lipstick and I’d have to start snapping my gum again. It was all too much to bear! My mind was spinning and I was clearly overwhelmed. Translation? Not getting anywhere…fast. And that’s when I knew what I needed to do to get started. I needed to stop. And so I did.

Once I stopped the crazy-train from going off the tracks, I was able to focus and develop a plan of action. I figured the best way to determine what I needed to know, was to first establish what I didn’t know. That way I could identify where I was deficient and see which areas I needed to concentrate most of my efforts on. Because I work at a relatively specialized IRB, there were several regulations and procedures that I had no experience with at all. So it was critical for me to clearly distinguish my weak spots. To do that I answered all of the study questions in the Study Guide for Institutional Review Board Management and Function which is the companion workbook to the Institutional Review Board: Management and Function textbook by Bankert and Amdur. I did this before reviewing anything to get a baseline, so to speak, of my knowledge base across several areas. I used a lot of other resources to prepare for the exam but I really found that doing this exercise at the outset enabled me to formulate an efficient study plan and ultimately helped me identify the resources that would assist me the most.

Having a clear-cut strategy for preparing for the exam made a huge difference, as did the many helpful resources I was able to gather from the suggested list on the PRIM&R website. However, there is one resource I had that definitely gave me an advantage. The experience, wisdom, expertise, and intelligence of my colleagues, are without a doubt the most important resources I had – and continue to have today. Collectively they have been teaching me everything I needed to know since the day I walked in the door – all full of motivation and drive but without a stitch of IRB experience. Their support, encouragement, and unwavering belief in me, even in the absence of my own sometimes, enabled me to harness my anxieties (at least somewhat) and gave me the confidence to see it through.

So, did I pass? Yes, thankfully I did. Did I pass with flying colors? Honestly, I don’t know since I never looked at my score. I made my sister read me the results when the envelope came in the mail and all I wanted to know was pass or fail. I didn’t want to know my score because I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop my "inner OCD" from completely obsessing over the numbers. I only wanted to know in the event that I scored less than five points from the top score or less than five points from the minimum score to pass. Basically I wanted to know if I aced it or if I completely tanked. Turns out, like most others I assume, I scored somewhere in the middle of either extreme – which was just fine by me. Becoming a CIP for me marked the transition from having a "job" to having a career. Overall, I believe that becoming certified represents a commitment to what we do in this field and the level of excellence with which we strive to do it. Quite simply, I consider it an honor.