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Everyone does more work with less time these days. So how can an IRB make new board member training effective without being time demanding? One IRB has found that the answer is to hold brief educational sessions during its board meetings.
"The way the University of Pennsylvania has chosen to do it is to conduct new member training at IRB meetings," says Megan Kasimatis Singleton, JD, an associate director of education and training in the office of regulatory affairs at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA.
"The rationale is to provide members with an opportunity to constantly obtain new information and to be exposed to a variety of educational topics while not putting undue burden on our members to attend specialized training sessions," she explains. "We wanted to incorporate this into the IRB meeting time as much as possible."
These 10-minute educational sessions cover a variety of topics over the course of a year.
"Each year, the topic list is developed based on emerging guidance we received or the issues we found were particularly challenging," Singleton says. "We do the presentations either before or right after the convened board meeting takes place."
University of Pennsylvania IRB administrators, who each are assigned to their own IRB, prepare the educational sessions by first giving a presentation at an IRB administrators' meeting, where they receive feedback and commentary, she says.
"Once the training session is developed with group feedback in its final form, all individual administrators are expected to present the actual training to their IRB members," she explains.
Each month, there is an educational topic that is uniform across the IRBs.
"We decide on the presentation and have the same training given to each board," Singleton says. "One month it might be about informed consent; IRB administrators can use examples of informed consent from their own board meetings to highlight information during the training session."
New IRB members also undergo an initial orientation and standardized training program that includes showing them the IRB's electronic system, she notes.
"What we've done in addition to these efforts is an ongoing effort for IRB membership to have an annual member evaluation," Singleton says. "We identify needs any member might have going forward."
This type of evaluation is important because it enables the IRB office to assess members' satisfaction with any of the training and educational experiences.
"We decided to do an assessment of our members to see what their training experiences were and what their feedback was so we could improve their training," Singleton says.
Using a web-based survey tool called Survey Monkey, the IRB sent all members a voluntary and anonymous survey with 32 items, she adds.
"We asked a combination of multiple choice and open-ended questions to assess member experience specifically," Singleton says. "About 60% of members responded."
The survey tool was inexpensive and included data protection and security.
"In terms of resources, it was pretty easy," Singleton says. "Survey Monkey provides some data output you can use to get some basic feedback when you're trying to do an initial analysis of your data, and this is really helpful."
Education and training staff learned that IRB members felt the educational sessions at board meetings were a benefit overall, she notes.
"The majority of respondents indicated they would prefer coming to the training at an IRB meeting rather than externally," Singleton says. "More than half said they wouldn't be able to attend if it was scheduled at a time not parallel to the IRB meetings."
Also, members indicated they liked having member training at the beginning of the meetings because it set the stage for discussion and opened the door for engaging the group to discuss ethical issues, Singleton says.
"Based on member preference, we transitioned training to be at the beginning of the meeting," she adds.
The meeting educational sessions typically used a slide or PowerPoint presentation format. In the survey, members indicated they were open to different types of training formats and styles.
"Moving forward, we've implemented a variety of training techniques," Singleton says.
One of the biggest challenges in creating IRB member meeting training sessions has been keeping these short enough to fit in with the board's regular agenda, she notes.
"So we keep the learning points to two or three key, take-home learning points and focus efforts on those to allow training to be conducted within 10 to 15 minutes," she explains.
IRBs also might consider using annual surveys and evaluations as a way to find out what their particular members need at any given time.
"A lot of our educational topics for 2011 came out of comments members gave of their own need assessments, which we compared and matched with the needs we've identified," Singleton says. "After members do their evaluations we address the board's needs and address training opportunities and gaps."