The Importance of a Good Match in the Clinical Placement Process

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One of the primary functions of a Director of Clinical Education (DCE) is matching students appropriately to clinical rotation slots. These matches are critically important on so many levels.

Students. Students obviously have a major stake in their placements. On a basic level, a student needs a placement that suits them logistically with regard to location. A student also needs to fulfill the various required clinicals for their program. Students also need to acquire their clinical knowledge in a variety of learning environments that both suit and challenge them. This means taking rigor and personality into account.  Finally, students may have specific interests and preferences about the clinical settings that some programs take into account.

Clinics. The stakes for clinics are also high. Good student matches add so much to their clinics while a mismatched student can be a liability.

Schools. Finally, for Schools, the need to provide students with an exceptional education that meets their needs and preferences must be balanced with the need to maintain positive and ongoing relationships with clinics.

When DCEs match students with sites, they must consider so many variables and manage so many pieces of interconnected information. For example, let’s say your PA programs enrolls 80 students and each student must complete 9 rotations throughout their clinical education. That means you must fill 720 slots per year. Of course, you must also ensure that each student completes their 8 required settings among your 200 sites. This is all before you take into account student preferences for proximity, setting, or other factors such as a student’s strengths and weaknesses as a clinician. Finally, you also need to consider staff personalities and the idiosyncrasies of various environments.

Let’s face it: Placing students is a big job.

The potential for errors in a manual placement process is high and mistakes and missteps have very real consequences. Many DCEs mitigate risk by limiting student choice or other aspects. This process is also very time-consuming. Even fulfilling the most basic needs can take days and weeks for a human—or even a team of humans.

So what’s a DCE to do? Consider an automated placement process. An algorithm pulling information from a database match students in minutes. An automated placement process using an algorithm that is flexible enough to take your program’s specific variables into account can save time, reduce errors, and improve educational outcomes.

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