Life West’s preceptor program has gotten a much-needed adjustment in the past year.
Streamlining of the paperwork process and a reinvigorated mission to get more students out on preceptorships, where they work with chiropractors in an office setting, has helped the program grow from a trickle to a rush of students.
Amiee Fiorito, Preceptor Program Manager, says things have just ballooned in the last six months. There used to be a couple of students each quarter who were interested in a preceptorship, and now 70% of senior students in the past six months are heading to preceptorships.
Dr. Ron Oberstein, President of Life West, said in a recent podcast that it’s been the mission of the college to get more interns involved in preceptorships.
Fiorito, who came on board at Life West nearly a year ago, loves the way the program is growing. It’s happening quickly, so she’ll shed some of her other duties in the next month with the addition of an outreach/service program coordinator so that she can focus more on growing the preceptorship program.
The program gives senior students a chance to practice their craft once they’ve completed their Health Clinic requirements and before they have received their Doctor of Chiropractic degree and are licensed. They get on-the-job training in a chiropractor’s office, Fiorito said, which can help them figure out how to eventually run their own offices.
Students who have some academic coursework to complete but have finished all of their Health Clinic requirements are eligible for preceptorships. Those Health Clinic requirements include passing clinical competency exams (including X-ray, technique, exam and case components), completing the required number of adjustments and other procedures and completing required competency assessments. Students who finish those requirements but still have classes to take may then apply for a preceptorship. Fiorito helps them determine where to go as well as what requirements they may need to meet.
Those who only have online classes to complete can travel out of state or even internationally. Fiorito has placed students in Singapore and Canada, and is working with another student who wants to do a preceptorship in Australia.
Fiorito researches the requirements in each state (or country) for allowing a student to practice, so that the rules are clear and Life West preceptorships are always in compliance with the local laws and regulations. Interns are not paid during the preceptorships, which last around three months, and they may be in the office up to 35 hours each week.
Kelly Wang, a 13th-quarter student, is in the middle of a preceptorship in San Jose. The 25-year-old chiropractic office has a huge patient base, and Wang says she is expected to jump in and help.
“It’s been great,” she said. “I think the most important thing for me was finding the right doctor. He told me what his expectations were, my responsibilities, so I know exactly what is expected of me.”
Wang started visiting the office three months ago and observing, so she could be prepared to get to work once her preceptorship started in September. Building that relationship ahead of time helped her identify a few things she really likes about working with this particular doctor and his staff.
“The way they communicate with people is really higher level,” she said. “They are treating people with confidence, and I want to immerse myself in that kind of environment.”
She said the office is also part of MaxLiving, a network of chiropractors committed to enhancing their patients’ overall health and wellness. “They manage everything in the office, and I want to learn that protocol,” she said, adding that she felt it was a good business model.
Wang said she also appreciates the clinical aspects of how the chiropractic staff adjusts patients. They use extra positioning and care to cater to people with a variety of health histories.
But the biggest thing Wang has noticed is the level of trust and responsibility she’s felt during the preceptorship.
“I have no experience with running a practice, but they trust me and they will ask me to do re-exams,” she said, offering an example of what she means by responsibility. “That gives me so much confidence in what I do. They trust me to go one-on-one with patients.”
Wang plans to renew her preceptorship and do one more round with an office in Ontario, where she’s from, once she graduates from Life West in December. This way, she can continue to practice and work while she’s waiting for her license. All senior students can renew their preceptorship every three months, as long as they meet all of the requirements, and until they are granted their chiropractic license.
Fiorito said she’s continuing to work with Dr. Scott Donaldson, Vice President of Clinical Operations at Life West, to streamline the process for applying and make it easier. They are developing an online application as well. Students interested in a preceptorship should get their applications in before Week 9.
“There’s so much opportunity for them to get out in the world,” Fiorito said. “This is an opportunity for them to get out of clinic and be in the world and utilize what they’ve learned here and put it out in a real-world setting.”