"We've gone through an incredible evolution over the last few years.": Daniel Schulz in an employee interview

Ten years ago, emovis founded Homecare Visits (HCV). Daniel Schulz, Homecare Trial Coordinator, was up close and personal at the time and can provide interesting insights into the origins and further development of the department. What challenges did HCV face back then? How are our homecare workers prepared? What does Daniel find most important in his job? Find out all this and much more about HCV and Daniel in our interview with him.


Daniel, we want to know when and how did you came to emovis and what you did before that?

I trained as a healthcare and nursing assistant. Originally, I wanted to work in the inpatient sector, but I didn't have clinical research in mind at all. The fact that I ended up at emovis in October 2008 was thanks to a good friend of mine who had trained here and worked as a study coordinator. She told me that staff were urgently needed to coordinate a particular study. My job interview then took place directly with the managing director, Dr. Bettina Bergtholdt, because emovis had far fewer employees than it does today. At that time, the whole company was much smaller and the internal structures looked very different. For example, the study coordinators also took on tasks for which there are separate positions today, such as reception or the patient hotline. 


What was your experience like getting started in clinical research?

I had to get to know the various regulations, such as GCP or IATA. Thus, my experience had little to do with my training profession, since I had no direct contact with patients. Nevertheless, I was able to benefit from my training knowledge, whether it was knowledge of the various clinical pictures or the awareness that empathy is an essential factor when dealing with people. 


You were there ten years ago when Homecare Visits (HCV) was founded. How did this go and what challenges did the department face at the time?

A client approached us with a request to train nurses in a hospital regarding the use of infusion pumps. We had never done that before. We only found out later that this was part of a study that also included home visits. This request acted as a catalyst for a completely new field of activity for us as a company.

We were trained to carry out the training with the nurses, as the infusion pumps were to be used during home visits. After that, the study then started quite quickly. A study site in Hanover needed home visit nurses, but we didn't know how to recruit them at that time. So, in the beginning we visited the patients and also to the study sites ourselves. We did this to get to know the study staff. Later, we started recruiting the first home visitors through the Yellow Pages.

The big challenge at that time was that there were no structures or workflows yet. These only developed gradually through learning by practice.  Over time, we developed a kind of matrix that made it possible to track how long different studies took. In the meantime, we have defined many steps in our work and there is quality assurance within our company.

Progressive digitization has also changed things: Back then, we still travelled a lot, conducted training on site and work instructions from the study sites came by fax. Now, most of the work is done remotely and we hardly ever use paper in the office anymore, our work is almost exclusively digital.


In the beginning, three of you organized home visits. When did new team members join?

We started out as a team of three, but after a while one of our colleagues took over equipment management. When new fields of activity arose in the UK, I worked together with another colleague, Wenke Schult. After that, it just progressed step-by-step. France was added, which meant that our team grew by a couple of French employees. In 2015, Audrey Mouisse joined as coordinator and gradually more and more new colleagues joined. About two years ago, our department almost doubled in size.


What does a "typical" working day look like?

My typical workday consists of many e-mails and phone calls, because I am the direct contact person for clients, home visitors, hospital staff and couriers for any questions and problems. In addition, I check all documents for the home visits to ensure that they are complete in terms of content, are free of errors and have been prepared in accordance with the regulations of the GCP. In addition, I organize the trainings for the home visiting staff and check in our database for when which visit takes place. Apart from that, I do a lot of research and educate myself on new and less common indications. Since I manage several studies at the same time, I have a lot of work to do.


You prepare the home visiting staff for their assignment. How does that work?

Basically, I don't do the work alone, but as part of a team. We have to be informed that home visitors are needed to carry out a study on site first of course. Then we start recruiting. We now have a large database that we can search. If we don't find anything there, our HR team is called upon. Once a suitable home visitor who can perform the basic tasks of a nurse has been found, we sign a contract with them. This is usually done on a fee basis. After that, we train them for the corresponding rounds so that they know what specifically needs to be done on site. We then contact Equipment Management, which then sends the necessary materials to the home visitor. After the visit, the home visitor calls us if necessary, in the case there were problems on site, and sends us the relevant documents scanned by e-mail. We review these and provide feedback to the home visitor. Especially with very complex studies, we ask in detail how everything went.  All in all, as a trained nurse, it is an enormous advantage for me that I have also carried out home visits myself. That's how I know what's important during the process. 


emovis is now active in 16 European countries with its HCV service. Do the visits differ from country to country?

The procedure is always very similar. If the same study is carried out in several countries, there are only a few details to consider. This could be an additional blood sample or a pregnancy test, for example. There are however other specifics depending on the country. For example, in our experience, courier services in certain countries are more unreliable than in others. This kind of thing has nothing to do with the study itself. Nevertheless, we need to keep an eye on such problems, which may mean additional work for colleagues on the ground. In addition, home visitors are not allowed to carry out the same rounding activities everywhere. We therefore must adapt some of these to conform to the legal requirements of the respective country.


What is the most important/challenging thing about your job as a Homecare Trial Coordinator?

The most important thing is to always answer all questions, have a lot of patience and be friendly. For me, a balance between professional and casual has worked well. You should show people a great deal of empathy and treat them as equals. That means not overloading them with too much information, but meeting them where they are at that moment. Or to put it another way; complex things should be expressed in the simplest possible terms. This also varies from nation to nation. For example, I have to communicate differently with American clients than with Polish ones.


What do you do particularly well in your job?

Being patient when explaining things - that's also the main task in my job.


What insights - professional and personal - have you gained during your time at HCV so far?

I've learned a lot about how to operate in business, such as what to look out for when dealing with people from different nations, because both our business contacts and our team members are international. Above all, however, I have become aware of how important a good work-life balance is. Our flexible working hours offer far more advantages and opportunities than rigid working time models.


You recently celebrated your tenth anniversary at HCV. What are you particularly proud of?

I'm very proud that our team is the way it is. We've gone through an incredible development over the last few years. In the meantime, we have developed a structure that is really something to be proud of. Of course, I'm particularly proud of our reputation and the feedback from the study sites we work with.


What do you do to maintain your work-life balance?

Since the pandemic, I have been able to work from my home office, which has had a very positive impact on my work performance. Currently, I'm in the office twice a week. But I make sure to draw a clear line between work and private life at home. For example, I have a separate work room, wear appropriate clothing when I’m working at home and allow myself enough breaks. On long workdays, I go for a walk or exercise in between. At the end of the day, I turn off my cell phone and stop reading e-mails. That's also part of a healthy work-life balance.


Daniel, thank you very much for the interesting interview!


Dear readers, thank you for your interest and we hope you enjoyed reading our interview with Daniel Schulz.

On our blog you can find some more exciting conversations with emovis employees. For example, you can read part 1 and part 2 of our interview with Annika Schuett, Director of Homecare Visits, and Carolina Martins, Homecare Trial Project Manager.