Inside Scoop: The Syapse Clinical Abstraction Team

A culture of continuous learning through onboarding and training

2022/10 6 minutes read

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Within Syapse’s Clinical Abstraction department, the onboarding, training, and quality programs are designed to support employees as they transition into their new role. With an ongoing focus on high quality data and a newly-developed continuing education program, our CTRs are positioned for success in a supportive, friendly environment.

What is your role in the onboarding program?

Joe Burkhart, Senior Manager (PA): I have had the pleasure to build, oversee, and manage the onboarding program. It was developed in 2019 with our first group of eight CTRs. Since then, we have trained over 70 CTRs.

Kimberlie Lloyd, Lead Clinical Abstractor (IL): My role is to train every CTR by discussing training goals, reviewing practice cases, and being a resource if training content feels a little overwhelming. I encourage questions so the information is clear and understood. Training ensures that each individual is prepared to be a successful abstractor and CTR team member.

How has the training program evolved over time?

Joe Burkhart: The training program has evolved immensely. First, the content now incorporates tech-enabled data curation alongside human abstraction as we continue to adapt to evolving processes. Second, the administration of training has changed. Initially, training sessions were held via virtual meetings. Now, we have recorded training sessions along with quizzes and dedicated Q&A time. This allows for more consistency. Lastly, we now have a buddy program in place. Here, you’re never alone. We may work remotely, but someone is always available to help. It’s amazing to have a culture and team workplace like we do here. The training program sets up each CTR for success, and Syapse is truly the best place to work.

Kim Lloyd: To build highly-trained CTRs, we start with a foundation that includes instruction for Syapse abstraction. We have a structure in place so questions are answered quickly. Updates include clarified and standardized reference materials, implementation of an online training platform for easier access and tracking, and practice cases chosen to highlight abstracting complex cases. Our program is extremely successful and continues to grow and change along with the company.

What educational opportunities does Syapse offer? Are there plans to offer educational opportunities to the larger CTR community?

Sheryl Dickinson, Manager (IL): Syapse offers educational opportunities to our in-house CTRs that are presented by colleagues within Syapse. All sessions have been approved by the National Cancer Registrars Association for Continuing Education credits. We plan to offer at least 10 CE credits annually, which is the number required to keep CTR credentials current.

Additionally, CTRs that are members of our Learning Health Network (LHN) and part of our CTR Leadership Network can participate in these educational opportunities for free. If unable to attend the activity live, the CTR can view the video and still receive CEs. With the cost of educational activities, access to free CEs is a perk for our LHN CTRs.

Remote interviewing and onboarding are new procedures for most workplaces. How was the transition from working in other registries to joining a remote-first company?

Karen Miller, Clinical Abstractor (MI): I had experienced working remotely at a hospital registry due to the pandemic.  From that experience I knew I wanted to continue working remotely, especially during the harsh northern winters.  However, communication was an issue at the registry, so I was pleasantly surprised at the structured meetings, numerous communication options and open-door philosophy with management here.  The transition to remote work went smoothly for me because there are so many avenues in which to reach out for assistance. 

Beth Hagan, Clinical Abstractor 2 (TN): In the hospital you have weekly tumor boards or cancer committee conferences, but you work out of a broom closet. In the basement. Here, the onboarding process and daily schedule are more interactive remotely than any in-person job I ever had. The Slack channels, the meetings, all bring you more connected as a true team.

How did onboarding help you understand our core differences and impact as a company?

Florence Mitchell, Custom Research Clinical Abstractor 2 (PA): My favorite part of onboarding was when representatives from each department explained what their group does and discussed their areas of expertise. I didn’t understand everything, but it was clear that they were brilliant, accomplished people who cared deeply about the mission and were filled with enthusiasm for it. This was very different from anything I had experienced working in a hospital, and this is what made it clear that I "wasn't in Kansas anymore.” 

Beth Hagan: You quickly learn how important you are, and there is a constant feed of information letting us know where and how our work fits in to build this massive foundation.

The first thing one learns when onboarding is that CTRs are respected, and our work fuels what happens here at Syapse. We are considered the 'rockstars' of the company. - Beth Hagan 

How is the training component of onboarding at Syapse different from other registries?

Karen Miller: Many hospitals don’t have the resources to offer training or educational opportunities. Syapse makes it clear that this is a priority and has a thorough orientation period. Syapse also offers monthly educational opportunities and allows CTRs scheduling flexibility to meet their credential requirements.

Beth Hagan: Training is always at the forefront. There is training for everything you touch, which means you will feel confident and ready to tackle it. Syapse educates and trains one to feel confident to step into - well, really, anything.

How does the quality program assist in creating confidence in the work you are doing?

Karen Miller: The Quality Program at Syapse is ALWAYS encouraging and available.  It's obvious they want the best from their CTRs and project a teamwork philosophy.  I know I have grown in my skills because of the positive feedback I expect from the Quality Program.

Donna Paone: The quality team effectively communicates expectations and provides support to abstractors. The guidance is concise, and the feedback is always constructive. The quality program as a whole fosters an environment conducive for professional growth. Our requirements and technology are constantly evolving, and the quality team stays abreast of these changes. I am very comfortable posing questions without feeling embarrassed.

What new skills have you personally developed and/or strengthened throughout the onboarding experience and through the new CTR educational series?

Karen Miller: I have learned about biomarkers and genetic testing and find this subject very interesting!  The educational series has been helpful and I've applied things I've learned, most recently a better understanding of radiation therapy after attending an educational session given by two of my CTR colleagues.  I learn something new most days and believe I have become a more accurate abstractor. 

Florence Mitchell: I learned how to use a Mac! I learned a lot of practical skills required for remote work. I learned a great deal about biomarkers and how to read the biomarker reports I had ignored for years. I was able to utilize my experience as an MD to develop presentations in the educational series, which of course honed my presentation skills. 

Jen Jensen, Clinical Abstractor (CA): I am learning more about biomarkers with the different educational resources offered. Each month Syapse gives you an hour to use for educational sessions, which I hadn’t experienced before.

Syapse created a program to pair new employees with a “buddy” - an employee who assists in integrating the new hire into the culture of the company. How did your buddy help you get acclimated?

I found the "buddy" program very valuable. My buddy reached out to me prior to the start of my training, answered my questions, and helped settle my nerves before my first day. I reached out to her several times - both during and after my training - and she was always there for me. - Jen Jensen

Beth Hagan: The buddy system here is probably my favorite thing. I had a buddy. I was a buddy. Your buddy is ready and waiting to usher you into Syapse. Joining this very connected team was intimidating when I joined, and there were only 15 people. I can only imagine joining when there are 65 people! Your buddy breaks down the big change into smaller, more manageable parts. You have an immediate hand-holding partner, cheerleader, teacher, coach.

What was your favorite part of onboarding?

Karen Miller: I liked the structure. My days were scheduled out for those initial weeks and I met some wonderful people.  It was nice to know what to expect each day.

Jen Jensen: My favorite part of the onboarding program was that it was developed by actual CTRs! Along with developing friendships with the CTRs I completed onboarding with.

What three words would you use to describe joining Syapse?

Karen Miller: Welcomed, Respected, and Happy!!

Florence Mitchell: Exciting, Enlightening, Welcoming

Jen Jensen: Dynamic, Amazing, Team

Donna Paone: Exciting, Rewarding, Stress-free 

Beth Hagan: Energetic, Nurturing, Connected