SURVEY: Newly recruited MSLs are struggling in their first year as an MSL

Is it time to have an honest conversation? FSTP, from SCIENCE to PHARMA, has run the largest survey asking newly recruited MSLs how they feel in their first 12 months in the role.


Out of 735 MSLs who voted, 83% of MSL were struggling in their first 12 months in the role!!

  • 51% said it was a challenge.
  • 18% said they were LOST
  • 14% said they were in SURVIVAL mode

Some of the reasons were:

  • No good onboarding
  • No in-field medical plan or call objectives
  • No clear guidelines on what is expected from them.   🤦‍♀️ .
  • Unrealistic expectations and KPIs
  • Overwhelmed with the complexity of the role

Some other comments were:

  • A lot more need to be done to properly onboard newly recruited MSLs
  • I highly recommend to have a buddy program where newly recruited MSLs shadow an experience MSL for the first few months. It helped me a lot.
  • It just shows how complex the role is and how much is expected to any MSLs.
  • Not surprising that people struggle to break into the MSL role, if even after 1 year in the role a lot of MSLs are still unclear of what the role entails and how to perform.
  • As a new MSL, I struggled with the amount of information I needed to upskill on, not just about the disease and therapeutic area but on how to engage with KOLs and why.
  • While I agree that being lost or in survival mode is bad, being challenged is not. If you are not being challenged you could be doing a more senior role or one with more responsibilities. I would conclude this suggests that 17 % of the MSLs are underemployed.
  • Feeling completely lost or on survival mode it's pretty much not acceptable especially for a job where all the energy needs to go on engaging with KOLs and on the exchange of scientific information

🙋‍♀️ What advice would you give to a starting MSL? Add in comment.


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