As family physicians who are involved with community precepting, we would like to spread the word about its benefits not only to residents and students but also to family physicians and their practices.
We have found that precepting improves relationships with patients. Residents and students are often able to devote more time to patient interviews than practicing physicians can, and patients appreciate this attention. Residents and students can also handle many aspects of patient education, freeing up physician time for more complex issues. In general, patients get excited about contributing to the education of the doctors of the future, and they appreciate efforts to ensure that the next generation of doctors is prepared to care for the families in their community.
Students and residents can be valuable team members. In addition to taking comprehensive patient histories, they can help with nonclinical tasks, such as filling out lab requests, coordinating referrals, updating problem lists, and making calls to patients. With their technical skills, they can even research and download information the physician may need. Students and residents also ask good questions, so preceptors often find themselves updating their own knowledge about trends in medicine and clinical practice guidelines.
Precepting gives everyone on a practice’s team an opportunity to teach. Residents and students need practice management experience as well as clinical skills, so preceptors should assign them time to work with scheduling, billing, and management staff. Learning hands-on how a medical practice runs is the type of experience learners can’t usually get at their home base.
Finally, physicians can earn up to 20 AAFP CME credits yearly for precepting in their offices. In our experience, there’s no more rewarding way to earn CME.
The Society of Teachers of Family Medicine has launched a web resource for community preceptors called TeachingPhysician.org. Through affiliation with a residency or medical school, physicians can gain access to tools and information on the site that will equip them with the skills they need to be a successful preceptor.