Entering its fourth year, the SKILLED Clinical Trial Internship Program has grown to cover more regional sites than ever in 2022, thanks to the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. A total of nine interns from across the Study Coordinator and Clinical Trial Assistant streams have been placed across seven regional sites, accounting for more than 40 per cent of the total intern cohort.
The deliberate growth of the internship program, supported by MTPConnect's Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) initiative, comes as the flow-on effects for patients at SKILLED host sites have taken hold Victoria-wide. Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW), which services more than 90,000 people across North East Victoria from Bright to Benalla, is one such site.
Regional retention key to capacity building
In early 2021, Jackie Lake was accepted into the SKILLED Internship Program as a Clinical Trial Assistant intern and became the first SKILLED intern placed in Wangaratta. Trial activity had only just commenced when Jackie started her internship.
Through the SKILLED program, Jackie completed a quality improvement project focussing on developing NHW-specific standards of practice for teletrials, ultimately resulting in NHW being able to offer cancer clinical trials via telehealth for the first time. This step alone means Victorians in the North-East can access metro-based clinical trials without the need for the six-hour round trip to Melbourne.
At the conclusion of her internship in 2021, Jackie was retained in the region and gained employement as a Clinical Trial Assistant at NHW, effectively doubling the clinical trial team's staffing resources. In 2022, the hospital has welcomed another SKILLED intern, KC Sheng, as a Study Coordinator.
A “game changer” for Wangaratta
Nicole Humphreys is the Clinical Trials Research Support Officer at NHW – and Jackie’s supervisor – and has witnessed the impact of SKILLED first-hand.
“Being involved in SKILLED has been a game changer for Northeast Health Wangaratta.”
“It has expanded our capacity for conducting clinical trials not just in volume but complexity. We have been able to increase our trial portfolio significantly with the support of the internship.”
The results speak for themselves and represent a tangible shift in cancer care options for the residents of Wangaratta and surrounds. In 2021, the NHW clinical trials team was able to accept a Phase II Trial, before accepting a Phase I Trial this year.
NHW's Nicole Humphreys (L) with Clinical Trial Assistant Jackie Lake (R)
Bolstering regional clinical trial activity
The Clinical Trials Research Support Service (CTRSS), supported by Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, commenced at NHW in October 2019. During this time, a clinical trial coordinator was employed to develop clinical trial opportunities for NHW.
The SKILLED Program has advanced the growth of the CTRSS at NHW by increasing capacity for clinical trials, consolidating a trained workforce and providing clinical trial education opportunities within the organisation.
These increases in clinical trial capacity have been replicated across many regional SKILLED host sites, and it is expected that the two new regional host sites in 2022 will experience similar growth.
Latrobe Regional Health Services in Traralgon and South West Healthcare in Warrnambool are hosting a Study Coordinator and Clinical Trial Assistant intern respectively.
The regional host sites in 2022 are:
- Barwon Health (Geelong)
- Bendigo Health
- Goulburn Valley Health (Shepparton)
- Grampians Health (Ballarat)
- Latrobe Regional Health Services (Traralgon)
- Northeast Health Wangaratta
- South West Healthcare (Warrnambool)
Cover image: NHW's past and present SKILLED interns Jackie Lake and KC Sheng.