Medical Education

North Carolina Community Preceptor Trends over Twelve Years

Community preceptors fill a critical need for clinical training for medical and health sciences students. Over the last several years, North Carolina has seen an increased need for community preceptors with the opening of eight graduate health sciences schools, expanding class sizes, and an increasing number of preceptors who are nearing retirement age.

In 2017, UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC researchers and medical educators from across the state surveyed nearly 3,000 North Carolina community preceptors to assess their teaching experience. Preceptors included primary care physicians, pharmacists, advanced practice nurses, and physician assistants.

More than 30 percent of preceptors contacted completed surveys. Their responses were compared to those obtained from similar studies conducted in 2005 and 2011 to assess trends over time.

Researchers found that satisfaction remained consistently high with nearly 92 percent of preceptors indicating they were satisfied or very satisfied. More than 87 percent of preceptors indicated they planned to continue to precept in the next five years, which is only slightly less than 89 percent in 2011 and 91 percent in 2005.

Several negative trends emerged that are cause for concern given the increased need for preceptors across North Carolina.

In 2017, more than 47 percent of preceptors indicated students had a negative impact on patient flow as compared to approximately 36 percent in 2011 and 2005. More than 44 percent of preceptors reported a negative impact on work hours compared to 33 percent in 2011 and 2005. Nearly 15 percent reported precepting students had a negative impact on income compared to 10 percent in previous years.

Not surprisingly, the number of preceptors who valued receiving payment for teaching increased from 32 percent in 2011 to 46 percent in 2017. The increased negative impact of students on patient flow, work hours, and income was associated with lower satisfaction.

These findings suggest schools should place more emphasis on preparing students to add value to practices and finding ways to offer financial and other extrinsic incentives to offset negative impacts.

This research is currently under review for publication.

Principal investigators: Robyn Latessa, MD, director and assistant dean, UNC School of Medicine Asheville Campus; Kathy Foley PhD, Lauren Payne, Kirstie Conner, UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC; Susan Keen, MD, director, medical student education, Eastern Carolina University Brody School of Medicine; Julie Byerly, vice dean for education, UNC School of Medicine; Heather Tarantino, MD, director and assistant dean, UNC School of Medicine Charlotte Campus; Bruce Peyser, MD, co-director, Primary Care Leadership Track, Duke University School of Medicine; Beat Steiner, MD, MPH, program director for medical student programs, UNC School of Medicine.