ISU Headlines

Idaho State University’s Physician Assistant Studies program ‘in dire need’ of clinical preceptors

Posted October 2, 2013

A lack of clinical preceptors has been troubling Idaho State University's physician assistant program. Without these volunteer clinical teachers for the medical students, the department has been scrambling to find placement for physician assistant students who are ready to begin their year of clinical training.

"We are in dire need of preceptors," said Paula Phelps, director of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies.

After completing 12 months of students learning the foundations of medical care, students move on to 12 months of clinical rotations. Those months are spent in five-week segments of eight rotations, which include internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine and general surgery.

The next rotation for physician assistant students begins Oct. 7.

Finding a site for clinical rotations is the responsibility of the department, not students.

"We get the job done but we're constantly looking," said Phelps.

Although students are mostly placed throughout the Intermountain West, said Phelps, some have to sites across the country for their clinical learning experience.

Based on the number of students and the high rate of pay for doctors, Department of Physician Assistant Studies is unable to pay its preceptors. However, it hopes the intrinsic rewards of teaching a new generation of medical professionals will drive potential preceptors to consider taking on clinical students from the program.

A factor contributing to the dearth of clinical preceptors is the potential impact the training could have on a preceptor’s work schedule. If a medical professional spends significant time training a physician assistant student, the practice could have less time to see patients. The possible financial impact, as well as concern for productivity, may weigh on the mind of potential preceptors.

With a preceptor turnover rate at around 30 percent, according to Phelps, ISU is also working to find ways to compensate preceptors in order to make the experience appealing to them. Currently, the program offers affiliate faculty status to preceptors, which gives them access to school resources and the Idaho Health Science Library.

If interested in participating, contact Phelps at phelpaul@isu.edu or call 208-282-4878.

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