By Pamela Martineau
Well-trained, confident and adept at working in interprofessional health care teams, alumni of MBKU’s School of Physician Assistant Studies are increasingly proving to be among the University’s best recruitment tools for finding well-qualified preceptors.
“Our alumni have been instrumental in allowing MBKU to obtain new preceptors,” says Sandra Fineman, PA-C, Director of Clinical Education for the School of PA Studies. “The alumni are our boots on the ground, speaking highly of our University and the PA program. Other health care providers often reach out to us and say – ‘I met one of your alumni and I was impressed with their knowledge and training, as well as their commitment to patients.’”
People familiar with heath care professionals’ education know that preceptors are key to learning the fine art of practicing medicine. Book learning or didactic education is critical, but it is through clinical rotations that students truly learn patient-centered care, as well as the nuances of navigating the complicated terrain of health care.
“If the PA students are reading it in a book it is easier to forget how it is applicable to real life,” says PA Fineman. “You can read all you want about congestive heart failure, but when you see it in a patient it cements the disease for the students. There is now a person behind the disease.”
Students in the PA program go through rigorous clinical rotations in pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, general surgery, emergency care, internal medicine, family medicine, behavioral health, primary care and an elective of the students’ choosing.
PA Fineman says that the School “takes pride in finding preceptors who are well-skilled, passionate about teaching, and who really have an interest in educating future PAs.”
She adds that the PA clinical team works hard to get to know students and potential preceptors to make the best match possible.
“It makes for better learning outcomes when you match the right student with the right preceptor,” she says. “It is a partnership that we want to be mutually beneficial for our preceptors and our students. It takes a lot of work because we have so many different needs of our preceptors and our students. Putting it together is a unique, wonderful puzzle.”
The value of what students take away from their rotations is immeasurable, PA Fineman adds.
“The students get to understand the art of health care by providers who have been practicing medicine for several years or often decades,” she says.
Preceptors also help to facilitate interprofessional practice for students, PA Fineman adds.
“When the students are out in the rotation, they may encounter a more complex EKG or imaging study that may require them to initiate a phone consultation with a cardiologist or radiologist.” she says. “It is very organic and they learn from other health care providers of the team. They also get to learn about everybody’s role in taking care of the patients. That training begins at MBKU as part of our interprofessional curriculum before any of our students embark on their rotations.”
Fineman adds that preceptors, like nearly all health care professionals, have an altruistic streak.
“Medicine is based on giving back and it has always been our medical model to be trained by others who are doing,” she says. “All of our preceptors believe in giving back to the medical community and giving back to educating future health care providers.”
Fineman adds that preceptors also know that the PAs they are training will one day be taking care of the preceptors’ patients, taking care of their family members, and taking care of their communities.
“A lot of our preceptors take pride in educating our students because they know they are the future of medical care,” she says. “And PAs in particular play a key role in today’s health care model,” she adds.
“There is a greater need in the community for access to health care, especially primary care, and PAs have been the network to reach out and fill that gap,” she says. “PAs have been instrumental in filling that gap in having health care delivered at a high quality level.”
In fact, many graduates of the MBKU School of PA Studies go onto work hand-in-hand with their preceptors.
“We have numerous students who, at the end of their rotations, have been offered jobs by their preceptors,” she says. “Many PA graduates get hired because they made a good connection through their rotation. Others have gone out in the work force and established relationships with physicians and PAs who have become preceptors for our current PA students.”
At the end of the day, however, Fineman adds, the School of PA Studies alumni have helped to keep the recruitment of excellent preceptors going by simply being stellar at what the alumni do, excellent patient care.
Preceptors are role models and committed health care professionals whom Ketchum students depend on to help develop the critical skills required of them. Join us today by emailing PAClinicalEd@ketchum.edu.