Clinical Educator Handbook and Resources

Clinical Educator Handbook

This handbook has been developed by the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Clinical Education Committee (CEC) to provide guidance to both new and experienced faculty and staff in the coordination of the curriculum during the experiential phase of physician assistant education in the United States.The information contained herein was created from experiences of the members and from feedback from several sources. The purpose is to illustrate a variety of responsibilities and approaches to the administration, assessment, and monitoring of clinical education. These methods are not identified as “best practices” simply because every program develops curriculum to accomplish the clinical-year duties differently.

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In developing this handbook, the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Clinical Education Committee (CEC) felt it was imperative to offer new and existing clinical educators a resource guide for carrying out the  multiple duties and responsibilities during the clinical phase of physician assistant (PA) education.  Throughout this handbook, when the term “clinical educator” is used, it includes program administrators, faculty, and staff. In constructing this resource, we relied on a variety of experiences and methods that have been devised by the clinical coordination team to carry out activities that will ensure a quality educational experience in the clinical setting. Many of our own personal experiences are scattered throughout this book.

For clarification, the clinical phase may involve several team members and different nomenclature for the positions and responsibilities. Many programs have named the faculty position “clinical coordinator,” “director of clinical education,” and other renditions of this type. We have used the term “clinical educator” to be specific to the role and do not advocate for any specific title.

Additionally to note, the term “rotation” is used throughout this text but may be replaced with “clerkship,” “preceptorship,” or another similar title depending on the program’s preference.

As you use this reference, please understand that carrying out the duties of the clinical educator’s office can be done in many different ways.  We offer suggestions about how to accomplish these tasks but also acknowledge that many programs do it differently.  As we have often heard in PA education, “If you’ve seen one PA program, you’ve seen one PA program.”  We are providing information and a different example for new faculty members and administrators to see that one task can be carried out in a variety of ways.

The bottom line is to follow the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant  (ARC-PA) Standards for PA programs and ensure the student is obtaining the types of clinical experiences that will prepare him/her for the PA profession and to ultimately provide excellent patient care. We have referenced the specific ARC-PA Standards at the beginning of each chapter, and the ARC-PA Standards  pertaining to the clinical year are contained within the appendices at the end of the document (see Appendix A). In addition, we have referenced helpful information from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) where appropriate.

Finally, the authors recognize the constant changes in the delivery and coordination of the curriculum during the clinical year. New technology helps us keep track of data for analysis and increase our communication with students. It is the intention of the committee to periodically update this handbook to include the ongoing changes in the field.


The following document contains guidelines that are intended to serve as a resource for PA educators who are designing curriculum to support PA students in the transition from student to qualified PA.

Download the Clinical Year Transition to Professional Practice Curriculum Resource document.