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Nurse Practitioner Creates Company to Match Students with Preceptors

Clinical Match Me assists students with the often difficult preceptor search process

Nurse practitioner education programs require NP students to gain experience and hands-on learning through preceptorships. But these same schools are unable to provide students with enough guidance to find a preceptor who is both willing to work with the student and available when the student is free.

On the other end of the preceptor search, many healthcare institutions and facilities are unwilling to take on NP students. Paperwork needs to be filled out and returned to each school, and most of this paperwork hasn't yet breached the digital age.

In addition, facilities aren't compensated for taking on NP students (like they are by medical schools). This places NPs, who are trying to find preceptors, at a distinct disadvantage, since facilities would rather be paid for their efforts than not.

When tasked with finding a preceptor, NP students have to call, email and research hundreds of facilities in an attempt to find one place that can offer them clinical hours. Until now.

From Frustration to Foundation
Dino Soriano, Sr., RN, HSA, FNP-C, was a family nurse practitioner student looking for a women's health clinic to precept him. He was living in Savannah, Ga., working, raising a family and searching vigorously for a preceptor.

When Soriano couldn't find places on his own, he enlisted the help of the dean of his school and even paid professionals to search for preceptors. Finally, a preceptor agreed to teach him---at a facility 4 hours away from where he lived.

Soriano moved across the state to Atlanta, where he completed his clinical rotations at a cost of nearly $40,000 of potential income. He was managing two households and had to sit out a semester due to the length of time it took to find his preceptor.

Frustrated with the process, Soriano thought there had to be an easier way. So he started asking places why they wouldn't precept him. The answer, he said, was the same across the board: "Hospitals don't get paid to fill out paperwork."

Each school requires preceptors and their institutions to fill out a packet of paperwork unique to the particular school. Every student has their own set of paperwork, meaning that even if one student had already precepted at a hospital, the facility would need to fill out the same paperwork again for another student from the same school. The paperwork, though extensive, didn't give the hospitals any clear direction as to what students should learn. Worse yet, none of the paperwork was digital.

From there, Soriano asked, "If I managed the paperwork and set the students for you --- including the syllabus, classes, ID --- would you be willing to precept them?"

Institutions replied with an overwhelming "yes."

Clinical Match Me
"My vision is that no student will have to sit out again," Soriano said. After talking with various hospitals and schools, he started to build an online platform where NP students could find a preceptor in a stress-free process. "I thought about calling it 'I Need a Preceptor' but realized that 'Clinical Match Me' says what we do. We're going to match you with a clinical."

The Clinical Match Me website assists students from the start of the search process to the first day of placement. Students submit their contact information, location, what type of practice they are looking to be in, and details about their school's paperwork deadlines to the website.

Soriano is not the first NP student to struggle with finding a preceptor, either. Katrina Borner, RN, an FNP student at the University of South Alabama, described her search as "a lot of calls and talking to office managers without success. Most of my preceptors have been through people that I know outside the area I live."

Through a Google search, she found Clinical Match Me. "The process was very easy. First you register on the site, then you receive a call from one of the representatives," Borner said.

Once a student submits his or her information, Nicole Morgan, SPHR, SCP, reviews the application and looks for preceptors matching the student's request. If she finds what could be a good match, she responds to the student and starts the paperwork process.

"We don't spoon-feed anybody," Soriano said. "If you don't do your paperwork on time, we won't match you."

The students must submit a photograph, résumé, license, malpractice insurance and a syllabus with their application. Morgan will then set up the connection between the student and the preceptor. Clinical Match Me fills in and digitizes the remaining paperwork, preparing contracts for an e-signature by both the student and the medical facility. From there, the student can submit the completed requirements to his or her school for review.

"They get a complete package every time," said Soriano.

"I think that Clinical Match Me is a great service for students who are having problems obtaining a preceptor, because [the site] has a lot of preceptors willing to take students," Borner added.

What also makes Clinical Match Me stand out is that the organization pays preceptors to teach. However, Clinical Match Me doesn't get paid until the school approves the preceptor, Soriano added. So far, the website has helped several hundred students and has nearly 2,000 students in its database who are in the process of getting matched.


Where are the Preceptors?
Unfortunately, it's not always easy to supply students with a preceptor every time. Many states do not have a sufficient amount of practicing NPs interested in fulfilling this need. Soriano said, "We need 5,000 more nurse practitioners to become preceptors."

Why is the NP preceptor pool so small? Susan Lynch, MSN, FNP-C, state representative for the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners (FLANP), attributes the lack of preceptors to three things: teaching NP students on the job is extra work; having a student can slow down the working day, meaning that NPs see less patients; and many preceptors do not feel valued for what they are doing.

Brandy Brown, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, CEO of Extraordinary Nurses, LLC, agreed: "We want to feel like we're getting something from the work we're giving. Clinical Match Me is finding new ways to make being a preceptor feel like a desire instead of something forced."

Both Lynch and Brown relayed stories of struggle while they were looking for their own preceptors. Lynch said she was calling many places and was fortunate to find any preceptors at all. Brown called her own journey "one of the hardest things possible," adding that even her school couldn't help her.

Accredited NP programs grew exponentially from the early 2000s until now, with nearly 650 graduate nursing programs and 250 online programs existing today. Factor in the growing shortage of medical providers, and finding a preceptor for every student became a daunting task for schools.

 "I know the heartache and the strain of trying to find someone to help in your profession," said Brown. She was a preceptor before Clinical Match Me and now works with Soriano on a regular basis. She said that all NPs can tell their own story of the rough road they had to travel to get where they are today. It's their duty to help someone else get to that point, she said. "We want the future of nursing and advanced practice nursing to grow."

"I really believe in giving back," Lynch added. She decided to precept after meeting Soriano at an FLANP conference.

Claim Your Superhero Status
During a conference Soriano attended, one of the topics discussed was "Claim Your Superhero Status," which means "stand up and be a preceptor."

Soriano liked this idea and took the concept to the next level for Clinical Match Me, creating a caricature superhero named Clinical Woman, who guides students through the application process on the site.

"So many students call us up crying," Soriano explained. He wanted to add a little bit of light humor to their day. "We thought we might as well have some fun with what we're doing."

Clinical Woman, along with her counterpart, Match Me Man, acts as the face of the website. Soriano said the design of these two mascots was derived from Morgan and himself. Both wanted to claim their superhero status and help NP students.

"[Morgan]'s the driving force and makes Clinical Match Me work well," Soriano said. He added that he's the vision and direction of the organization.

SEE ALSO: DNP Practice Expectations: Is the Bar Set Too Low?

He hopes the idea to "claim superhero status" sticks with practicing NPs. Right now, his main focus is finding and recruiting more preceptors.

"Precepting is necessary. This is needed. We have to meet the needs of the students," Lynch said. "It's for the good of the profession. It's a wonderful thing. How else are people going to learn if no one takes them on?"

For NPs who are interested, Soriano and Morgan can be reached at info@clinicalmatchme.com

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer. Contact her at aheisler@advanceweb.com.

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