Becoming a Preceptor

The Elon University Physician Assistant Program will rely on the professional expertise of community preceptors to provide students with hands-on clinical experience and patient interaction. This experience may take place in a community-based office setting or within a hospital or health care facility.

Preceptor Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible to be a preceptor?
You are eligible to serve as a preceptor if you are:

  • A medical doctor (MD), doctor of osteopathy (DO), physician assistant (PA), nurse practitioner (NP) or a certified nurse midwife (CNM).
  • Licensed and in good standing with your state licensing board.
  • Have practiced for at least a year in your current discipline.
  • Are willing to assist students in meeting their learning objectives for the rotation.

What kind of clinical experiences are you seeking?
All second year PA students are required to complete clinical rotations in: primary care, pediatrics, inpatient medicine, emergency medicine, surgery and women’s health, where the focus is on gynecology/prenatal health. All rotations with the exception of women’s health are 6 weeks; women’s health is 3 weeks. In addition, students will have the opportunity to select two 6-week “electives” and one 3-week elective that can be completed in any discipline. All experiences should provide hands-on patient care for a minimum of 35 hours a week. Participation in call, weekend rotations and other activities, such as visits to long-term care facilities or nursing homes with preceptors, is encouraged.

What should I expect a second year PA student to know and be able to do?
Second year students should be able to perform comprehensive and focused histories, and physical examinations. While their clinical reasoning skills will strengthen over time, they should be able to develop a list of differential diagnoses, and determine the next steps in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions. They should have basic skills in patient education and counseling related to common medical problems, and will have had practice with medical procedures such as phlebotomy, splinting and wound care. Experience and ability of each student may vary, as they come from diverse backgrounds. 

What is required for the students during the clinical experiences?
Each rotation the student is required to complete will have learning objectives that will guide the experience. These will be provided to both the preceptor and the student in advance of the rotation. On the first day of the rotation, preceptors should meet with the student to discuss mutual expectations, and should have a mid-rotation meeting to assess progress. Daily, informal honest feedback is important to help a student refine their skills and grow into successful health professionals. A final evaluation completed by the preceptor will assess the student’s knowledge, assessment and clinical reasoning skills, and professionalism. Program clinical staff are available at any time throughout the rotation to provide support as needed.

How do I best incorporate a student into my practice setting?
Effective preceptors create an atmosphere that allows the student appropriate learning opportunities. It is typical on the first day or two to allow the student to become oriented to the practice and observe the preceptor. Then after a preceptor observes the student performing history and physical examinations, and feels comfortable with their skills, they should be able to progress to doing these without direct observation. The student then can present the patient to the preceptor, discuss possible next steps and complete the patient visit with the preceptor confirming the student’s findings.  Periodic direct observation throughout the rotation is recommended.
Students also need to practice clinical procedures as opportunities arise. This includes phlebotomy, starting IVs, wound care, splinting and pap smears, which are taught in the first year and need to be reinforced throughout the clinical year. Students in a surgical setting need to be involved in the pre- and postoperative management of patients, and as appropriate, should assist in surgery.

Can the student spend time with other colleagues in the practice?
Students are allowed to spend time with other qualified practitioners within the practice. All preceptors must be identified to the program and complete a preceptor profile. It is typical for some practices to identify a primary preceptor who will be responsible for coordinating the student’s experience. The student can then spend time with several practitioners in the group over the course of the rotation. All practitioners who supervise the student should provide feedback to the final student evaluation.

Are the student and institution covered in the event of a malpractice claim?
Both the student and Elon University are insured in the event of a malpractice claim. A $1 million/$3 million malpractice binder covers students. For additional information please contact Diane Duffy MD, Director of Clinical Education, at 336- 278-6848 or dduffy2@elon.edu.

Have the students been trained for OSHA and HIPAA?
Our students are trained and aware of HIPAA and OSHA regulations and have been trained in post-exposure incident management. In addition, we require that students be fully immunized before the start of clinical rotations and we perform annual tuberculosis screening.

What are the benefits of volunteering as a preceptor?
Preceptors often find that having a student in the practice is a rewarding experience for both staff and patients. It provides preceptors the opportunity to help shape the next generation of health providers, to give back to and promote the medical profession, and feel personally gratified.  The Elon University Physician Assistant Program recognizes the integral and important role of preceptors in educating our PA students, and will recognize this contribution in a variety of ways including certificates for Category II CME credit and free registration for Category I CME events held annually by the program.   Additional means of recognizing preceptors are being pursued.  At any time, we welcome your input in making this a valuable experience for preceptors.

Who should I contact to become a preceptor?
Diane Duffy, MD serves as the Director of Clinical Education. She can be reached at (336) 278-6848 or dduffy2@elon.edu.