2021 Preceptor of the Year Always Has a Student by Her Side
Katie Sorensen Began Precepting Just One Year Out of PA School
May 26, 2021
By Sarah Blugis
For Katie Sorensen, MSPAS, PA-C, the 2021 recipient of the Preceptor of the Year Award, precepting students brings joy “to a whole new level” in her career. Sorensen has been a PA in general surgery for 10 years, currently practicing at St. Luke’s Regional Health System in Duluth, Minnesota.
There, Sorensen precepts an average of 7-8 students per year for 4-6 week rotations. So far in her career, she has precepted about 80 students. With her students, she covers suturing and clinical questions together in the operating room.
“Watching students gain confidence in their abilities and making huge improvements in just a few weeks is such a reward,” she says. “I’m the first to admit I’m not considered an ‘easy’ preceptor. I push students out of their comfort zones early on and have high expectations.”
The AAPA/Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Preceptor of the Year Award honors a preceptor who demonstrates exemplary service in the clinical education of PA students as a mentor, role model, and instructor; and furthers the image of PAs by exemplifying the PA profession’s philosophy of providing accessible, quality healthcare.
Sorensen has been completely dedicated to teaching and mentoring students over the past 10 years, and has a student by her side about 90% of the time. After graduating from the Des Moines University PA program in 2010, she began precepting students just one year later.
“I have a way of bringing myself back to my days as a PA student on surgery rotation. I know surgery is the rotation students are typically most anxious about,” Sorensen says. “I can still remember my own thoughts and fears. I know many questions students have before they ask.”
Sorensen’s path to becoming a PA began in high school, after a career project inspired her to pursue a career in medicine. She became a certified nursing assistant while still in high school and from there, took every opportunity she could to gain healthcare experience – which reaffirmed her decision to become a PA.
PAs, Sorensen says, are “excellent patient advocates” who help patients feel well cared for. For her, the most rewarding part of being a PA is being “part of the cure” for patients.
“In surgery we may help patients become pain free after years suffering, and remove cancer or large tumors to help cure. I’ve had patients tell me the operation I was just a huge part of gave them their life back,” Sorensen says. “I enjoy seeing patients get well and leave the hospital, then seeing them back a couple weeks later when things have normalized more for them. It’s nice to see them in their ‘normal clothes’!”
Outside of her day-to-day practice, Sorensen is also a guest lecturer at the St. Scholastica PA program and a suture session instructor for University of Minnesota Medical School students.
Sorensen is adamant that smaller communities can provide great learning opportunities for students. She encourages students to look beyond “big name” academic facilities when looking for rotations because students can also receive excellent hands-on education elsewhere.
To make an impact on students beyond those she precepts, Sorensen created an Instagram account that now has more than 12,000 followers. Through quizzes, instructional videos, helpful hints, and personal responses, Sorensen helps students prepare and have a successful experience during their surgery rotation.
“I admire my students and I know they certainly make me a better PA,” Sorensen says. “They teach me as much as I teach them. I will continue to be the preceptor I needed most when I was a student.”
Connect with Katie Sorenson on Instagram @just_a_pa.