Guided clinical experience is a critical component of a physician assistant (PA) student's education. However, clinical precepting is strongly perceived to have deleterious effects on productivity. In this study, we sought to test a method for evaluating the effect that PA students have on clinical productivity.
We recruited 14 family medicine preceptors and second-year PA students from 2 programs, the University of Washington (UW) and the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (UT). We collected productivity data during 3 weeks of preceptor clinical practice—one week without a PA student present and 2 weeks with a PA student present (one week early in the student's family medicine clinical rotation and a second week late in the rotation). We collected preceptor demographic data, patient characteristics, and the primary outcome—relative value units (RVUs) per preceptor per half-day during the 3 data collection weeks. At the end of the study, we asked preceptors about the ease of data collection and any negative effects of the study itself on their clinical productivity.
No significant differences were found in preceptor demographics or in patient characteristics, numbers of patients, or RVUs per patient seen in any of the weeks or between UW and UT. In this pilot study, no significant differences were seen in RVUs per preceptor per half-day between the 3 weeks of observation or between UW and UT.
In this pilot study, the protocol was straightforward, unintrusive, and preliminarily showed no significant effects of a PA student on preceptor productivity.