5 Tips for Surviving Your Clinical Rotations

5 Tips for Surviving Your Clinical Rotations

Program Directors Share Advice for PA Students


Anatomy and pharmacology are behind you now – it’s on to the second phase of your PA education: clinical rotations. Under the supervision of a preceptor, you will test your theoretical medical knowledge in real world clinical settings. Your experience will help you become a confident member of a healthcare team and give you a deeper understanding of the setting and specialty that you may want to pursue in your PA career. Here, experienced program directors from around the country share the top five tips they’ve gleaned after years on the job.

  1. Be punctual.
    “Always show up early to your rotation site. On time is 15 minutes before you were asked to be there.”
  2. Be prepared.
    “Look ahead and learn what types of patient conditions are on the schedule for the next day, so that you can read about them the night before and be prepared to answer questions that the preceptor may ask.”
  3. Stay flexible.
    “Adapt to your practice setting and to practice habits and needs. The more adaptable you are and helpful to your preceptor, and the more interest and curiosity you show, the more likely they are to teach you.”

“Be flexible and pay close attention to instructions provided by the program, clinical observation sites, and clinical rotation sites.”

  1. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you.
    “Strive to view every experience during rotations as a learning opportunity, even if it is not how you would choose to practice.”

“Take initiative! Volunteer to do whatever you can. Your clinical experiences are what you make them. If you stand back, the preceptor will not be as likely to engage you or let you see or try more things.”

  1. Know what makes a great PA.
    “Trust your program’s curriculum and faculty such that if you learn the material and follow their advice you will become a successful PA. But more importantly, although a strong medical knowledge base will make up an important part of being a competent PA, always keep in mind that it will be your empathy, communication skills, cultural competency, integrity, common sense, and your service to your patients that will really make you a great PA.”

AAPA offers many resources to PA students to help them with their clinical phase. Get clinical checklists and equations at your fingertips with Maxwell Quick Reference Guide; use UpToDate as a resource for reliable clinical answers; get started on your PANCE studying with AAPA’s PANCE/PANRE Review, featuring the latest teaching methods, top educators, and a tech-forward approach. Check out these student resources, and then get back to your rotations!