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J Physician Assist Educ. 2013;24(2):12-9.

To teach or not to teach: 2011 national survey of physician assistants and preceptor experiences.

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Physician Associate Program, Yale University, 367 Cedar Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06510, USA.



The availability of clinical preceptors is essential for education and workforce planning. The purpose of this study is to describe the proportion and the characteristics of physician assistants (PAs) involved as preceptors. It also aims to identify the most important incentives and barriers for PAs to precept students.


A cross-sectional study was conducted with certified PAs in the United States from March 2011 to May 2011. An anonymous survey was sent via email to the 76,527 PAs in the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants' database. A total of 11,722 unique responses was received, yielding an overall response rate of 15.3%.


Only 25% of clinically active PAs self-identified as current preceptors of PA students in 2011. The most common characteristics of current preceptors were male gender, practicing full-time, working in a teaching hospital, providing inpatient care, and having more than 6 years of clinical practice. The most important incentives to consider precepting more students among all respondents were the quality of the students and the ability to earn CME category I credit. In contrast, the most important reported barriers were lack of support by either supervising physician or administrators. Preceptors and nonpreceptors ranked certain incentives and barriers differently.


The proportion of PAs who are clinical preceptors is low. Knowing the differences in the characteristics and attitudes between PA preceptors and nonpreceptors will help inform future recruitment and retention efforts. Qualitative research is underway to further explore quantitative study findings.

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