What is the difference between a preceptor vs. a mentor?
Precepting involves an instructor that is a health sciences professional who teaches and guides a student or employee in a new position for a certain length of time. Preceptors assist these students and staff members during the learning process. Preceptorship is complementary to a clinical placement/rotation, externship, fieldwork, internship, or practicum.

Key Roles:
•  Assist and support learning experiences for the student
•  Facilitate the comprehension of health and science knowledge, clinical skills, and professional disposition
•  Supervise, guide, and serve as a role model
•  Orient the student in the work environment
•  Provide training to enhance new skills and gain experience

Mentoring involves an advisor and an experienced professional who cultivates an individual in their learning and professional development. The mentoring relationship is mutually influential, with the mentor taking personal interest in helping the student develop into a skilled professional. 

Mentoring goes beyond simply advising because it simultaneously creates a personal as well as professional relationship. In general, a mentoring relationship develops over time, during which a student's needs and the nature of the relationship may change.

Mentoring can be structured or unstructured. Unstructured mentoring involves two people drawn together by their personalities, attributes and common ethics. Structured mentoring involves a mentor assigned to a protégé, typically for a specified time period. Additionally, some semi-structured mentoring programs provide mentor matching or personal selection.

What is expected from a preceptor?
A good preceptor serves as leader, demonstrates appropriate interactions with patients, and stimulates interest in subject matter. Additionally, an effective preceptor presents information with organization and clarity, organizes the learning experience, balances clinical and teaching responsibilities, and assigns responsibilities to the student.

What are the benefits of being a preceptor?
As a preceptor you are able to teach and share your love of Family Medicine with students. You may even be able to change their mind about a residency program.

How do I become a preceptor?
Determine which osteopathic schools are in close proximity to you and select the schools that you are interested in serving as a preceptor. Each osteopathic school has its set of requirements and its own application process. Some schools have regional coordinators assigned to the area to review the proposed rotation information and current rotation needs. Contact the appropriate staff at your schools of interest to gather the preceptor information and details. If you have questions about becoming a preceptor, you may also contact ACOFP at

How do I know if I am teaching the right material? What are the objectives?
Talk to the students rotating with you.  If students have signed onto your practice, they may have something they are hoping to get out of the rotation. As an ACOFP member we would be delighted to see preceptors sharing their experience in Family Medicine with all students in their practices, as well as the opportunities and core principles of ACOFP.

How do I provide a good student evaluation?
Student evaluations are an important part of clinical rotations.  In order to provide a good evaluation, start by talking to the student at the beginning of the rotation. Ask them what they would like to get out of the rotation, as well as your expectations of them during their time with you. At the end of the rotation, sit down with students to point out their strengths as well as areas they still need to work on. Provide them with written evaluations that they can reflect on as well as pointers on ways they can improve.

Who do I call if there is a problem with a student on a rotation?
We recommend first discussing the issues directly with the student. The student may not realize that there is a problem, so it is best to inform the student about the possibility of a poor evaluation or failure. If the issue is not resolved, then you should contact the student’s medical school clinical education department to alert them to the problem. Documentation will be essential.

How much can, and should, the preceptor let the student note on patient charts?
As a preceptor, you determine how much the student can notate. Many times, a preceptor will ask students to write a note on separate paper for his or her first patient for evaluation by you before it becomes a permanent part of the patient chart. This will allow you to help the student perform to your expectations. 

I would like to start developing/enhancing my skills as a preceptor. How can I start?
There are many websites available for preceptors. Additionally, during ACOFP conventions, there is a dedicated Pearls of Preceptoring program to enhance your ability as a preceptor. Please inquire for materials from local schools and check the ACOFP website for PowerPoints on related topics. In addition, practice makes perfect. The more students you have, the more experience you gain and the better you will be.

Can I earn credit for osteopathic preceptoring?
Osteopathic physicians serving as preceptors in any AOA-approved osteopathic medical education program may be granted Category 1-B credit. A maximum of 60 credits may be applied to the 120-hour requirement for preceptorship.