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Preceptor Engagement Project Before and During COVID-19

by Olivia Ojano Sheehan, PhD, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine


Preceptor engagement is a critical component in clinical education. At the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (HCOM), community-based preceptors volunteer their time and expertise to teach year 3 and 4 medical students. HCOM’s long-term commitment is to support and train preceptors through faculty development so they will have a rewarding teaching experience. Preceptor engagement through faculty development is beneficial. A systematic review of faculty development initiatives reported positive changes in attitude toward teaching.1 Faculty development programs offer opportunities to strengthen teacher identity and foster relationships between teaching programs and community-based faculty.2


During the academic year 2019-2020 we implemented an intervention to enhance preceptor engagement. HCOM was one of 15 medical schools selected to participate in the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine’s (STFM) Preceptor Expansion Initiative Project 2. The project’s focus is for family medicine departments to pilot standardized preceptor onboarding and engagement resources including Faculty Appointment Onboarding Process, ABFM Precepting Performance Improvement Program (PPIP), TeachingPhysician.org (TP) Online Module on Giving Feedback (FB), Master Preceptor Award, and Practice Recognition Award for Teaching Excellence. The Project 2 goal is to ease the administrative burden on community faculty at ambulatory clinical sites.3 The HCOM Project 2 team provided clinical faculty access specifically to three online preceptor engagement resources such as PPIP, TP, and FB.

The Project 2 team shared the PPIP, TP, and FB with all HCOM active clinical faculty regardless of their specialty, but the actual Project 2 participants included 18 family medicine (FM) preceptors only. This limitation reduced the number of project participants which in turn impacted input and feedback. Midway through the project, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This disrupted clinical rotations which in turn impacted preceptor engagement. Even though clinical rotations from March 2020 to June 2020 were relatively rare, the Project 2 team regularly communicated with project participants to encourage access and completion of STFM resources.


At the end of the pilot project, the Project 2 team sent out a three-question evaluation survey to FM preceptors. Fourteen of the 18 responded to the survey. Table 1 shows participant perceptions of the online preceptor engagement resources.

Table 1: Participant Perceptions of Online Preceptor Engagement Resources

Preceptor Engagement Resource

Usefulness (%)

Ease of Navigation (%)










Results indicated that 42.86% of the respondents found the three online resources as useful information, and 35.71% of the respondents found TP easier to navigate compared to 28.57% for both PPIP and FB.

A second question in the survey asked about the challenges participants faced in accessing the online preceptor engagement resources that impacted participation in the pilot project. Table 2 shows the results.

Table 2: Participant Challenges in Accessing Online Preceptor Engagement Resources


Response (%)

Competing demands


Lack of time




The third question asked respondents for written feedback. A few responses include “thanks for the resources,” “great resources,” and “accessible any time via internet…unfortunate some student rotations were cancelled due to the pandemic.”


Regardless of the pandemic, we appreciate the STFM’s initiative to provide access for HCOM clinical faculty to the online resources. The preceptor engagement pilot project is HCOM’s way of supporting and training preceptors so they will have a rewarding teaching experience. Participants reported generally positive feedback on the resources provided. In hindsight, the pilot project could have included clinical faculty from other specialties. Doing this could have expanded the breadth of the project. The implications of the findings may be helpful for other medical schools that participated in the STFM Pilot Project as well as medical schools that engage with their preceptors through online faculty development programs.


  1. Steinert Y, Mann K, Centeno A, et al. A systematic review of faculty development initiatives designed to improve teaching effectiveness in medical education: BEME Guide No. 8. Med Teach. 2006;28(6):497-526. doi:10.1080/01421590600902976
  2. Starr S, Ferguson WJ, Haley HL, Quirk M. Community preceptors’ views of their identities as teachers. Acad Med. 2003;78(8):820-825. doi:10.1097/00001888-200308000-00017
  3. Project 2: Family medicine departments, ideally in collaboration with other specialties and professions, will pilot standardized preceptor onboarding and engagement resources. Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Accessed June 24, 2021. https://www.stfm.org/about/keyinitiatives/preceptorexpansion/project-2buildingcollaboratives/#

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