Clinical Preceptors and Site Development

Clinical preceptors play an essential role in the education of the next generation of physician assistants and are in high demand. Clinical preceptors, who open up their practices to students and spend time educating them on the proper clinical evaluation and treatment of patients, may include licensed physicians and other licensed health care providers such as PAs and nurse practitioners.

Clinicians who have a desire to teach and to give back to their profession are encouraged to contact PA programs in their area. The main reward preceptors receive is the knowledge that they are helping to ensure that capable and competent health care providers are entering the U.S. health care delivery system. Many programs also award preceptors adjunct faculty status, library privileges, tuition remission, and other gestures of gratitude.

Clinical preceptors should feel connected to the PA program whose students they are precepting and be informed of the program’s expectations. The programs should have regular communication with preceptors during the clinical training of the students. Typically, the preceptor helps determine the student’s final grade for the rotation.

Physicians may be interested in having students rotate at their sites if they are considering hiring a PA in the future. Students also have a better sense as to whether they want to work for a particular practice after spending considerable time there. Many PA students get their first job through a clinical rotation.

While students rotating at a clinical practice tend to slow down patient movement, they also can add value by providing current standard of care practice knowledge as well as patient education. With the correct teaming of the preceptor and student, it can be a worthwhile and educational experience for all involved.