Practicum Process for Preceptors
Below describes the step-by-step practicum process for preceptors.
You may also download a copy of the Preceptor Information for the MPH Practicum.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Step 1: Develop a Practicum Opportunity
Once you have decided that you are willing to serve as a preceptor and that your organization is able to offer a student practicum project, the next step is to develop a practicum opportunity. Consider the needs of your organization and how a project could fulfill that need. The best projects are those that are well-defined, specific, and can be completed in a specified time period. A practicum must have realistic expectations and objectives and must be competency-based. It is important to clearly state any skills or knowledge required to complete the project (e.g., familiarity with computer statistical software or foreign language fluency).
If you have already identified a student for your project, skip to step 4.
Below is the general information that is required to submit a practicum opportunity:
- Brief Practicum Description & Proposed Approach
- Practicum Goals
- Examples of work the student could accomplish during the practicum
- Skills required by the student to complete the practicum (i.e, data analysis, writing, etc.)
- Number of students requested for the project (can be one student or group of students)
- Anticipated time commitment needed for one student (e.g., hours per week, start/end date of practicum)
- Location where student will complete work (on-site, off-site, or both). For on-site projects, include the organization’s hours of operation and if accessible by public transportation
- Description of what the team/organization offers that would make a significant educational experience for the student (i.e., opportunity to work directly with communities, engage in program implementation and evaluation, etc.)
- Possible challenges for a successful student experience (i.e., tight timeline, large organization, etc.)
- Application process (e.g., application deadline, interview process)
You can review example practicum projects HERE.
Step 2: Submit a Practicum Opportunity
Step 3: Conduct student interviews/selection
You determine the application procedure, as well as the number of students you choose to interview. To have a better chance of finding the right student, it is suggested to interview several students. In-person interviews are encouraged to better assess the applicants, as well as to allow the student(s) to experience the travel from their location to your organization’s office. However, if necessary, phone or videoconference interviews are acceptable. After you have selected a student, please inform JHSPH that the position has been filled. JHSPH will then remove your opportunity from the student search site so that students will not continue to contact you about your opportunity.
Step 4: Orient student
After you have selected a student, you will need to orient the student to your organization, (i.e., review the organization’s history, mission, goals, vision, work on a day to day basis, etc.). We encourage you to introduce the students to other staff to allow the student to gain an understanding of the workplace culture. It is important to discuss work logistics, including exchange of contact information, work hours, procedures for absences, parking, ID badges, computer log-ins, etc.
Step 5: Assist Student with the Practicum Learning Plan
The next step is to assist the student with the Practicum Learning Plan. The Practicum Learning Plan is an agreement completed by the student in collaboration with the preceptor, outlining what activities are to be undertaken during what time frame, and outlining the roles and responsibilities of the student and preceptor. The purpose of the plan is to ensure that all parties understand and agree upon the practicum activities. It is VERY IMPORTANT to work with the student to complete and both sign off on this document as soon as possible. The student is required to submit and receive approval for the learning plan prior to beginning their practicum.
Step 6: Provide Project Information
Provide the student with necessary information, guidance and instruction for them to develop the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to successfully carry out the project. This may include providing background information, other pertinent project information (e.g., reports, memos, fact sheets, etc.), and directing the student to research the topic (e.g., literature review, seek best practices, etc.).
Step 7: Supervise the student
During the course of the practicum, regularly scheduled face-to-face check-ins with the student are strongly encouraged to remain aware of student progress as well as answer questions or address any concerns. It is important to have an alternate preceptor available in your absence. If there are ever any problems at any time, please contact JHSPH as soon as possible.
Step 8: Evaluate the student
During the course of the practicum experience, there are two required preceptor evaluations. The first is the mid-term Progress Report. The second is the Final Evaluation, to be completed after the student finishes their practicum experience. In the Practicum Learning Plan, you will develop a timeline that will include evaluation due dates. The JHSPH practicum team will then send you a reminder in advance of the due dates.
Institutional Review Board – Human Subjects Research
If your project involves data about individual living people (e.g. personal health information, individual identifiers such as address, birthdate, race/ethnicity), Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval may be required. If you think that your practicum project might require IRB approval, please indicate this in the practicum opportunity description. JHSPH will then follow up with you to discuss this with you further. If your project does need IRB approval, JHSPH will be in touch with you to discuss further (which may delay project approval).
Legal Standard for Unpaid Internships
For unpaid practicum, projects need to be in compliance with the following Fair Labor Standards Act guidelines:
- The student should receive an educational learning experience;
- The experience must be beneficial to student;
- The student should not replace the position of other staff;
- The employer does not receive immediate benefit from the student’s work (e.g. employer cannot receive payment from clients/customers for the student’s activities) ;
- There is no entitlement to wages during practicum experience;
- There is no entitlement to a job after completion of practicum experience.
We also urge preceptors to have a discussion with students to ensure that the scope of the project is appropriate for the timeframe and capabilities of the students. In the event that the project scope changes or becomes larger than what the student can handle in the given timeframe, the preceptor and student should re-evaluate the expectations so that both parties mutually benefit from the outcome. Please notify JHSPH of any changes in the project scope, note also that JHSPH is available to provide assistance with any problems, questions, or concerns.
Portions of this web page were adapted from the following:
University of Michigan School of Public Health, Office of Public Health Practice. (2011-2012). Field Experience Preceptor Handbook. Ann Arbor, MI. Retrieved from https://publichealth.umich.edu/practice/index.html
George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services. (August 2012). GW SPHHS Practicum Site Preceptor Guide. Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://publichealth.gwu.edu/pdf/SP%20Guidebook.pdf