Most likely in your first year of NP school, you will take part in clinical rotations–either inpatient or outpatient. While most in-class schools assign you to a clinical site and preceptor for each rotation, online schools require you to find your own preceptor. This may sound like a pretty straight forward, easy process, but most of the time that is far from the truth. First, I will discuss tips on finding a preceptor, requirements, and communication tips. Then I will go into how to prepare for your first day of clinicals.
The first step in finding your preceptor is looking at your school’s requirements.
- Does the setting need to be inpatient or outpatient?
- Does your rotation have to be family practice/IM or can you choose a specialty?
- Are you allowed to work with an MD/DO/PA or can it only be with an NP?
- How many years of experience is your preceptor required to have?
- Do you need to have supplemental insurance outside of what your school provides?
These are only a few questions that you need to need to consider.
The next step is creating a list of potential preceptor candidates. My tip to you is to make this as organized as possible. When I was in this process, I made an excel spreadsheet and labeled the practice name, potential preceptors at that site, address and phone number of the site, who I spoke to when I called, and how they responded to my inquiry. 9.5 times out of 10 you will speak to the receptionist rather than the actual practitioner which can be very frustrating. They will say they will ask the NP/PA/MD and get back to you but then never call back. Or they tell you to talk to HR and give you the number to HR but you call HR, they never answer the phone. If you are out of state, sometimes they will tell you that they only take students from local schools. Most of the time you will hear that they do not take students at all, or you will just never have your call returned. It can be a very disheartening and frustrating process. You have to put yourself out there just to face a lot of rejection. I have gone as far as to reach out to people on LinkedIn, the Nextdoor app, Facebook, you name it. It would be nice if practitioners remembered where they started and that they too were once students, but that is not always the case. My best advice is to go in person. Talk to the people in the office. Let your face be seen. Bring copies of your CV and hand them out to anyone that will listen. If they remember your face and name, you may have a better chance of being brought up in their next meeting to see if they will take you on as a student. Make an impact on them some way or another. I know people that have brought in coffee, donuts, bagels, you name it. Just so the people in the office will remember.
Use email so you can track your communication with the clinical site coordinator. Be very respectful of their time and always thank them at the end of each email. You are more than allowed to send a follow-up email and see where they are in the process of things as to whether you can complete a rotation there. As my mom always says: “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” If you do not keep in communication with them, I guarantee you will be forgotten about. Follow up on everyone that says maybe and don’t give up until you get a flat-out no. And as a last resort, there are numerous websites that will find a preceptor in your area for you, but be ready to pay a hefty fee (upwards of $1,000 depending on how many hours are required).