How to find a Preceptor for Nurse Practitioner Clinical

Hi, friends! Been awhile, so sorry! The last few months have been crazy on my end with my Pediatric clinical rotation, completing my husband’s step-parent adoption of our son (a post to come on that!), birthdays, holidays, weddings, being sick, and just regular life craziness. That’s all great, but lets get into the topic at hand here which is why I’m guessing you came – how to get preceptors for your nurse practitioner program’s clinical rotations.

If you’re like me, you are in a program that does not arrange your clinical rotations for you. You are going to be responsible for finding a preceptor and clinical site and nailing it down. This probably seems like an impossible task, and if you’ve been around other NP students, you have probably heard how hard it can be. But don’t despair! Follow these tips below to make your life a little easier during this process.

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Step One: Figure out what requirements your program has and what your needs will be.

The first thing you should do when you find out you will have to arrange your own clinical rotations is GET STARTED! The following is some of the information you’ll need:

  • What rotations you’ll need
    • Example: FNP may need separate family, internal medicine, pediatrics, and women’s health rotations. This is completely dependent on your state, program type, school, etc.
  • How many hours you’ll need and over what time period
    • Example: 160 hours over a 10 week session
  • What credentials your preceptor has to have
  • What requirements your clinical site must meet
  • How many hours or rotations can be with one preceptor
    • Example: My program required a new preceptor for every rotation and I could not use the same office twice
  • What patient population must be seen in the clinical setting during each rotation
    • Example: Pediatrics, Adult only, Geriatrics, OB or OB/GYN combination

Knowing the above information and any other requirements you program has will enable you to find a preceptor and clinical site more confidently and have less of a chance that the site and/or preceptor will not be accepted by your program.

Step Two: Assess the options available in your area.

Once you know what requirements must be met, you can begin to assess what possible clinical sites would meet those requirements in your area. This is also a good time for you to decide how far you’re willing to travel for a clinical site and preceptor. I have driven up to 60 miles one way from my house for clinical. Although it was difficult for me with managing childcare and travel, it was doable. This may not be the case for you. I have also spoken with students who have traveled to another state entirely to complete their hours. Knowing what is available to you in your area will help you identify how far you’re going to need to go.

  • Where to Look
    • Within local area hospital systems
      • In my case, I did the majority of my clinical hours in a large hospital system’s outpatient offices and the first step was to contact HR. Most HRs will have someone dedicated to managing students and medical education and they have to clear you and give you the next step.
    • Private practice clinics
    • School lists of established or contracted clinical sites and preceptors
    • Networking websites/groups on Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Word of mouth from other students
    • State Board Resources

 

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Step Three: Make contact.

I cannot stress this enough – DO. NOT. PROCRASTINATE. You WILL regret it if you do! I am a lifelong habitual procrastinator. It is definitely one of my faults although I have never really had any major problems as a result. In this case, I did not know how difficult it could be to find a preceptor, especially for specialties, and my graduation was delayed by 9 months because of it. I waited 9 months for my Women’s Health preceptor’s availability and 1 year for my Pediatric preceptor to be available. I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble had I known that I needed to start early.

Remember that many of these Physicians and Nurse Practitioners and their office staff are getting tons of calls every day from people looking for clinical. Be straight and to the point about what you need, present yourself professionally, and showcase why you would be a good fit for clinical in their practice setting. Don’t hesitate to leave a message and follow-up, but don’t be a bother either.

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Things to Avoid and Final Tips

  • DON’T GET SCAMMED. Many websites out there advertise a guarantee that you’ll find a preceptor if you pay for membership. I paid $100 for membership to one of those websites early on in my search and was sorely disappointed. I have also heard of people that were told they needed to pay providers to precept them. It’s up to you if you want to do that, but I still feel there are plenty of people out there willing to give back by precepting you without asking for money.
  • Try to get a good variety in your precepting experiences (example: MD/DO/ARNP). Seeing how clinicians from different backgrounds in training practice provides a well-rounded experience and invaluable training in my opinion.  I was lucky to have experiences with a wide variety of patients also which I felt like enriched my clinical learning.
  • Be respectful and non-invasive. My preceptors have had some horror stories about students that were being disrespectful or invasive in their attempts to make contact. I have found it best to simply call the office or come to reception and request contact with the office manager as a start. Sending an email is also acceptable, but don’t be bothersome and annoying. If you don’t hear back after a couple of attempts, move on. Unless you know the preceptor or have been given permission to contact them by cellphone, I would never contact them by personal phone.
  • Work your contacts. Workplace networking is a good way to make contacts that may be helpful when you are searching for a preceptor or clinical site. I was able to use this route and my contacts from my job as an ER nurse to obtain my women’s health clinical site and preceptor.
  • Don’t give up! I live in a heavily saturated area of medical professionals and must’ve made over 100 phone calls for women’s health alone. Although there were many times I was ready to quit, perseverance allowed for it to all work out.
  • Know that it may not always be easy, but it will be worth it! There will be times when you may want to give up. I don’t blame you. But keep going anyways! Someone out there will take you on.

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You can do it! Good luck.

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