Preceptorship for Preclinical Students

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Preceptorship is a period of training for future medical professionals, during which a more experienced medical professional (or preceptor) provides training and observation time for the less experienced trainee.

Preceptorships offer the preclinical student an opportunity to follow a patient over time, to get to know the particular clinical field and to experience a clinical setting. Students report that preceptorships can be an excellent way of preparing for board examinations and clinical training.

Applying for a Preceptorship

Typically, a medical preceptorship is available for undergraduates in their junior and senior years of a pre-medical studies program. Depending on your university’s schedule, you’ll participate in a preceptorship during a fall or spring semester of your junior or senior year; occasionally, preceptorships are available over the summer as well. Expect to submit an application for this program and be interviewed before a decision about your acceptance is made.

What Preceptorship Entails

Once you’ve been accepted into a medical preceptorship programs, you’ll spend several weeks working one-on-one with a community-based, mentoring physician who will show you how to interact with patients and their families, how medical procedures are done, and how to complete the myriad paperwork and administrative tasks that are integral to a medical career. Patient contact is the key component of the medical preceptorship, but your mentoring physician will also show you the daily tasks that are crucial to a highly-functioning patient care facility. If you have a medical specialty that particularly interests you, such as pediatrics or internal medicine, your university will do its best to pair you with an appropriate physician in a setting where you can get exposure to working with the demographic that most aligns with your interests and aspirations.

Your preceptorship will last several weeks, and you can expect to record your experiences throughout this time period in a reflection journal which will be submitted to your university coordinator. You should use this preceptorship as an opportunity to ask questions of your mentoring physician, as well as grapple with medical ethics questions within your journaling time. During this time, your identity as an aspiring physician is developing, and the more information that you gather from both your mentor and within yourself will help you to determine your next steps as you begin seeking a medical career. 

Other Advantages

A medical preceptorship is your chance to earn college credits while gaining important experiences for your medical school applications. You are often able to take a medical preceptorship more than once, so multiple experiences will build on themselves to help bolster your GPA, your pre-medical student experiences, and your medical school applications. The medical preceptorship will also provide you with a professional network of physical and other medical practitioners who can assist you in the medical application process, especially with respect to letters of recommendation.


Unfortunately, very few medical preceptorship programs offer any funding or stipend, and you can expect to pay for your own transportation to and from your work site. However, these costs are worth the price when you consider the full benefits you’ll receive by participating in a medical preceptorship program through your university.

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