Guiding future DOs

How to develop more clerkships for osteopathic medical students

Miko Rose, DO, shares the insider’s tips and tricks that have historically resulted in the most success in securing clerkships for her students. She also shares a few lessons she’s learned along the way.


One of my primary roles as an administrator in an osteopathic medical school is to find and develop clinical training opportunities for students. Clinical clerkships offer students hands-on training, and direct patient care experiences that cannot be taught in textbooks or classrooms. Throughout this article, I will share some insider’s tips and tricks on which approaches have historically demonstrated the highest yield. I can also share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Focus on developing relationships

It’s easy to ask people to engage with you when you enjoy their company. So, if you’re more likely to agree to do something when you are with friends and people you like, what do you think it’s like for them? A great resource, both for skill-building in relationship development as well as for medical trainees, is Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” While the title of this book may sound potentially more manipulative than its content, the focus of this book is to deeply enjoy and appreciate people’s company. Time and again, I have found when I am able to employ this approach, it’s easier to develop relationships and recruit preceptors.

Find a sense of shared meaning and purpose

At the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine, our mission is focused on training future physicians from rural underserved communities who return to similar settings. A large, non-community-based urban medical care center would not be a great fit or shared mission for this school. We have had some preceptor relationships and affiliation agreements with these types of training sites, and our students don’t tend to thrive as much in them as they do in the community-based, rural settings that align with their school’s mission.

Offer incentives

While many preceptors are wonderful about working with medical trainees to give back to the profession, physicians are busier than ever before, and numbers within the workforce have decreased since the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential incentives some medical schools offer include stipends, CME, community gatherings, appreciation events and library access.

Lessons learned

  • Prompt follow-up: One of the toughest lessons I’ve learned is the value of a fast response. Many team efforts require multiple individual responses to be coordinated. I’ve personally seen from my experiences in preceptor recruitment, fundraising and sales that the amount of time between interest and getting to a “closed deal” is inversely proportional to the turnaround time. If they say yes or express interest, the sooner you can turn around a close, the more likely you are to secure an agreement.
  • Don’t take this process personally: I have had the highs of securing new rotation sites along with the lows of unexpectedly losing valued clinical training sites, and for both, the more you can stay away from taking things personally, the easier it is to regroup when needed. Let’s face it, COVID has been rough, and there has been a lot of regrouping for all of us. If you don’t take a failure personally, there is no time required to “recoup”—since it wasn’t a failure anyway. Not taking things personally saves a lot of time.
  • Anticipate questions ahead of time: Be prepared to provide more details about what you are asking of the preceptor/training sites. Have materials ready and resources handy; it’s pretty rare for people to accept a meeting without at least some interest, so anticipate that there will be questions.

Most importantly, know that securing a long-term relationship with a preceptor or institution is not that different from the advising many of us are giving to medical students on finding a career path: Keep the long-term view in mind. Most clinical training opportunities do not develop overnight, and securing relationships with training institutions takes time. With patience and a well-planned outreach campaign, you will find the right clinical training for your trainees, and preceptors will be happy to train future colleagues.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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