University of Virginia School of Nursing
Nurse practitioner Pete Hill, of Elkton Children and Family Medical Clinic, says mentoring UVA Nursing students is a way to "pay it forward."
  • How long have you been a preceptor?

6 years.

  • Why’d you decide to become one?

Perhaps it’s a pay-it-forward mentality. I myself benefited from preceptors during nursing school, and I feel that it is part of my professional responsibilities. From a clinical perspective, being a preceptor can be a bit of a drag on time, as it takes longer to follow up with patients when you’re working with a nursing student. But I was on the other side as a nursing student, too, and I understand how rich the opportunity is to visit with the folks in our rural communities. It’s invaluable experience that helps them with their long-term professional growth.

  • What is it like to work with the UVA students who come to your clinic? 

It’s been my pleasure to work with about 20 nursing students from several schools over the past six years. All students, the UVA ones included, bring with them a wealth of experience. Many of them honestly are students in name only, and I quite frankly learn more from them a lot of times than I feel I teach.

  • Any memorable stories of being a preceptor? 

Too many to list – students’ influence and care of our patients has been phenomenal. We see a variety of folks at our clinic and on home visits, and many of my patients come from the mountain and countryside “hollers.” We will often assign them patients to follow, offering patients free visits and labs in exchange for allowing a student to work as their caregiver. This is a model that is extremely well-received, and I have patients whose lives have been changed by the teaching and interventions of their student clinicians.

My students have diagnosed chronic diseases like diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, gotten patients to follow through with recommended screenings that’ve uncovered colorectal cancers and precancerous lesions during well-visits. Some students come with a background in mental health, others in cardiology, and those have been extremely helpful as they tend their patients.

  • Has being a preceptor changed your practice or made you notice or think about things in a different way? 

I’m not sure being a preceptor has really changed anything at our clinic as much as it’s always been a part of what we do. We are a non-profit, and had included in our founding charter that we would provide access to nurse practitioner students. We are nurse practitioner-founded, managed and operated. I am passionate in my belief that nurse practitioners are well positioned to address the significant health care needs of our communities.  

We are a rural clinic and see patients who will often not have access to care at all outside our clinic. My patients benefit from the rich background offered by the students to address the needs in my community that rival those of counties in southwest Virginia in regard to patients’ ability to pay, lack of insurance and access to care. The students benefit by seeing first-hand the tremendous opportunities and impact our profession has on our communities.