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What does a Clinical Programmer do?

Licia Morrow
Licia Morrow

A clinical programmer works with a staff during clinical trial testing, quite often in the medical field. This individual is responsible for setting up a data collection system, tracking and entering documents and evidence into the database, and retrieving this information upon request. This type of programmer might also be responsible for analyzing facts and statistics.

When a research team performs a trial of testing on a new drug, a clinical programmer must work with all members of the team to develop an appropriate system for tracking and locating data. This individual must also help to decide how the information will be captured and disseminated within system parameters. Often, this programmer will handle schedules and deadlines for the team as well and work with them to develop operating procedures for storing clinical data. Sometimes this person will also evaluate, upgrade and purchase new equipment and programs.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

There can be many levels of clinical programmers within a clinical trial, especially if its scope is large. Some programmers may focus only on data entry, while others may help with testing. As a clinical programmer gains more competence and experience, he might also be capable of analyzing data and solving problems. In some cases, a programmer may supervise other clinical programmers within the team. A supervisory programmer at this level rarely performs the routine functions of data entry.

Another function of this job is troubleshooting the data collection system. When a problem arises, a clinical programmer must decide what the issue is, create a plan to solve it, and ensure the solution is carried out. He will also spend some time routinely testing the system to remain aware of breaches or failures in data collecting and retrieval.

Communication is vital, because a clinical programmer is responsible for sharing information with the groups involved, as well as connecting information between groups. For example, a programmer might need to send out reports to all staff and also ensure that two or more parties are aware of other team work on the trial. A programmer might also be in charge of communicating information to senior-level management and interested outside parties.

Some people in this occupation work only as consultants, helping different companies set up and manage information systems. Others focus on developing software. The duties in this job can vary greatly depending upon the size of the clinical trial and the company that is funding it. Information managers such as these are required to use computer and science knowledge in conjunction with practical experience. They must often use mathematics skills as well when calculating and analyzing information.

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