Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Importance of Professional Development

Guest Bloggers:

Christina Stanger, MA, CRA
Director, Office of Contract and Grant Management, MedStar Health Research Institute

Ron Migues, MD
Scientific Administrative Director, MedStar Health Research Institute

We know, you’ve heard about the importance of professional development many times over, right? And there have been changes over the past year in how professional development and tuition assistance are being handled, right? Some staff are thrilled, and others not so much. We know, believe us, we know!

Being in management at a research institute means you automatically have to stay on top of changing regulations, political upheavals, new financial mandates, and specific agency changes. We have Uniform Guidance adoption deadlines, the final Common Rule and the single IRB, Research & Terms Conditions (RTC) implementations that are different for each sponsoring agency, DATA act compliance, changing proposal submission applications and systems…UGGHHH! And that is just the past year on the administrative side of things for federal awards. Being on the programmatic side of things is no easier. There are lots of changes and new ways of doing things popping up all the time in our 24/7 world. How do you keep up, and how do you keep your staff up-to-date on the latest and greatest without breaking the bank?

Thankfully, we can rely on our professional development funds. And, yes we know it is hard to stretch these funds! Sometimes you need to be inventive: speak at a conference to get free registration; look into volunteer work at a conference to see if you can work one day and attend sessions for free the next; search for local conferences; ask your department to pitch in a little extra (if they have it); build it into your annual budget; or build it into a grant proposal and dual-purpose the travel funds for both research meetings and professional development at a national conference.
We recently stretched our funds to the limit, but we were able to attend the most recent NIH meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana with a few other MHRI staff members. We pooled funds, discovered NIH has cheap registration fees, split hotel rooms, and took some cheaper flights with delays. However, we also learned a lot about upcoming NIH changes, spoke one-on-one with NIH experts, ate some awesome food in one of the greatest cities, and became good friends. The staff was immensely grateful, learned priceless information, and was actively engaged with NIH staff and what they were learning. We gained new contacts at NIH and brought back lots of peer review information to share at our upcoming PI Orientation. Here are a few photos of our group representing MHRI at the meeting and enjoying a lunch in New Orleans.

We highly encourage you to take advantage of your professional development funds, even if you have to be creative to achieve your needs. MHRI funds this because they know you and your staff are worth the investment. Also, what can top a happy and engaged staff that feels their professional development needs are being met?

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