Preceptorships, in which practicing physicians volunteer to personally take on and teach medical students, are becoming more popular during the 1st and 2nd years of medical school. In an effort to develop well-rounded student-physicians, schools are increasingly using preceptorships to provide more clinical experience to students before third year clerkships. The role of a medical student during preceptorship is somewhat ambiguous – you aren’t merely shadowing like an undergraduate might do, but you also don’t have the responsibility of taking care of your own patients, as you do in third year. Instead, you’re doing something in between those two, and that scope is often based on what your physician mentor allows you to do, as well as your own initiative.
In the second half of first year, I was assigned to a preceptorship at a private practice group a few miles from school. My preceptor was a family medicine physician who saw patients at the clinic as well as the nearby hospital. In the first few visits, I mostly shadowed during patient appointments, learning how to conduct a patient interview as well as performing any physical exams that my preceptor found relevant. Eventually, my preceptor told me to start seeing patients on my own – after conducting the interview, I would present the HPI to her. She would then return to the room to finish the appointment. In between visits, she would debrief me about the previous patient while I asked any relevant questions.
Overall, I had a really great experience during preceptorship, mostly because my mentor understood my level of training (or lack thereof), and taught me useful and relevant clinical information. I wish I got to practice more physical exams, but I understand that it would slow down the visit and possibly annoy patients. Results may vary from person to person, but overall I felt preceptorship was a very valuable experience during my first year.