Here are important things to remember before you start your clinical rotation:
1. First of all, clarify the site's and your school's expectations in advance. This will save many headaches in the end.
2. Help fill out the paperwork for the office as much as possible to make it easier for the clinical site. If the preceptor can just sign the paperwork, that is helpful for him/her.
3. Try to be more of an asset and less of a burden to the practice. Help when you can. You have skills and talents that can be valuable to them. Offer to make a hand-out for something that may be beneficial to them. Then make it! Offer to take back the next patient, do vitals, and start the history. This will help make precepting more efficient.
4. Everyone is a learning opportunity: the lab tech, front office, medical assistant, billing person…they are all usually experts in their own area! Learn from them. If it is ok, spend some time in each area. Or perhaps follow a patient all the way through from check-in to check-out. This will help you to understand patient flow and you may be able to help here and there. (This is obviously individual to office settings/preference, and schools may not consider this time "clinical" but that does not mean it is not valuable.)
5. Look for ways to say thank you. Whether it’s bringing homemade cookies, coffee or just a great, friendly and helpful attitude, it all makes a difference.
6. Remember, your actions affect students after you!! We can’t tell you how many times we have heard “We don’t take students anymore because the last one we had…” Don’t contribute to preceptor burnout or be the reason a preceptor/site stops taking students!
7. If you mess up/feel like someone doesn’t like you/don’t feel you are learning…keep this in mind: Every experience, even an undesirable one can be a useful learning experience. Take away the good and the not-so-good. Use it to help make you a better provider. Back to #6: Make an effort to fix the situation. Don’t be afraid to sit down and talk to your preceptor/office staff if you feel friction. Politely say something like, “I really appreciate being here. I value the time you and others are giving to help me grow. Is there something I can do to help this situation?” Find a way to say something positive about them: “You are so good with patients, and I want to learn from you.” Or, “You are amazingly organized, and I want to learn how to emulate that…” Watch your tone and attitude. Remember, they are sacrificing for YOU! They do not “need” YOU. You need THEM! Bring your faculty in if needed.
8. Patients need to accept you too. If it is available, look at what is noted as the reason for the visit. Sometimes it’s on the schedule or the MA may have written it. You may want to quickly look something up before entering the room. After you have been cleared to see a patient and instructed how much you can do on this visit, enter the room with a warm, friendly smile. A friendly attitude will warm up the grumpiest patient. Look the patient/family in the eyes and introduce yourself to everyone. You can decide about shaking hands. If they are sick, you may just do introductions. Find out who is with the patient today, if applicable. Note that. (“Patient is here with husband, George.” “Patient is here with his mother, Anne.” Ways to introduce yourself include, “Good morning! I’m Lynn McComas, and I am the nurse practitioner student who is working with Dr. Smith today. We will be working together to see you today. Tell me what is going on/what brings you in/how we can help today…”
9. Ask your preceptor what types of patients they typically see and what are some things you should be familiar/comfortable with before starting clinicals. This is super important! Make cheat sheets; review material; have immunization tables... Look at our Resources Page. Walk into clinicals as prepared as possible, and you will feel better and make a good impression.
10. Please read the post I wrote on LinkedIn: A Message to FNP Students Doing Their Pediatrics Rotations. Read this no matter what rotation you are doing- even if it is not peds! The advice applies to all rotations.
11. Know what you should bring to clinicals: laptop, lab coat, lunch, nametag, any special reference books or apps you might want to get.
12. Ask about attire. You want to fit into their practice. Be professional, clean and appropriate. Do they wear scrubs or street clothes? No plunging necklines, short skirts, tattoos or multiple piercing showing. If you aren’t sure- clarify and err on the side of conservative.
13. Make sure you know what needs to be accomplished for you to start well in advance: EHR training; immunizations; criminal background check...Every site has different requirements, and we can't track every site. It is up to you to ask and follow through. Do it early!
14. Ask how they prefer you present a patient, then practice that. Some clinicians are very particular about this. Make up your own cheat sheet. Here are some references for you:
Great resource! https://meded.ucsd.edu/clinicalmed/oral.htm
Clinical Links to many great sites (Thank you, UCSD.) https://meded.ucsd.edu/clinicalmed/links.htm
Great Tips for those being precepted: https://lms.rn.com/getpdf.php/1789.pdf
15. Find out when you should be there for clinicals- start and end of day. Don't assume you can leave early. Expect to be there the same schedule as your preceptor. Many times, preceptors complain that students leave early and that frustrates them. Stay and help as much as possible. You chose to go to school at this point in your life. Please don't make excuses for daycare, work, or traffic. Don’t make that the preceptor’s problem.
16. As your rotation progresses, you should be able to be an asset to the practice. You should have a system in place and know how to “roll!” Don’t be afraid to fly! You will wish you had when you are on your own. On the other hand, if your preceptor isn’t ready, you need to respect that. Refer back to #7 and #8.
17. Preceptors generally want a relationship with your school faculty. Encourage and foster that. Help make the process as easy as possible for them.
18. You can do this!! Utilize every minute, every patient, every opportunity. You will be glad you did when you are taking your exams and out practicing!
We wish you only success in your clinical rotations and hope these suggestions will help ensure that! You got this!!!
Lynn McComas, DNP, ANP-C
President and CEO Preceptor Link and PL Team
As a longtime NP with a desire to help and make positive changes to her beloved profession, Lynn often writes opinion pieces about the NP profession.
"Why NPs train on the backs of physicians"