This is a great question and should be top of mind for students in their last year of school. Let dig into your options.


This is a period of time spent in a college approved clinic. The most effective of these is a preceptorship in which you spend your last 3-4 months of of school inside a real clinical setting. This opportunity can super valuable for a number of reasons. First, you have little to no idea of how an office really works. In fact if you were to extrapolate your student clinic experience you might say 3 new patients and 5 regular patients is a high volume stressful day! Then you spend a day in your hero’s office to find that 5 new and 60-100 regular is actually not only possible but WAY more fun! The key in this opportunity is making sure you are not just a statue in the office or a file clerk but have an active experience with specific learning goals. These goals could be to learn a killer Report of Findings or maybe to learn how to effectively screen new patients. The more of these goals the better. In the end it’s free, a real world experience and no long term commitment!


There are many forms of partnership. We will tackle the main one which is to team up with a student friend and decide to march forward together. It is sort of sexy because when glimpsing out into our profession through the “student goggles” it may appear that nobody is practicing that way they should be and that you can’t support that. So you partner up jump into an office and herein lies the challenge. Inevitability each of you will get out of the box to get some advice, usually in the form of a seminar and on many occasions seperately as one is left to cover the office. One attends the seminar, get pumped up and returns to the office with incredible energy and excitement only to get slammed with the challenge of enrolling everyone in the new idea. Or one wants the latest new Patient Education system that costs $15,000 and the other is just barely paying his bills. Then there is the philosophy issue. As you practice and get the benefit of working on real people you learn new things and they are always being filtered through your core philosophy. The challenge comes in when you decide to change your core philosophy and the other doesn’t. This confuses the staff then the patients then you spend most of your time in triage. Lastly there is work ethic. Peoples lives change and they change expectantly, we get married, have children, go through a divorce or death. These all impose an huge stress on the business. You soon find out that the practice is just an extension of you and as your life changes so does the office. So the question is do we want to impose those challenges on another.


This topic is exhaustive as there are so many different associate experiences most of which are negative. In fact I once heard someone say it would be better to go out and fail on your own and learn the hard way rather than get an associate position. I agree….sort of. Unfortunately most associate experiences end up with you covering the main Doctors overflow and mostly doing new patient exams, marketing, rehab or other non specialized tasks. Then the doctor then takes a bunch of trips and leave you to cover his patients. The associates feels abused and and eventually is lulled into the fact that they “think” they can do this and leave. Problem; long hours, low pay, no training and no way out.

The Answer

The is no doubt that a great Precptorship is an absolute must! Let’s define great. Great means that your internship has specific learning goals that include attracting new patients, processing new patients, case management, front desk procedure and finally success mindset. Be sure to interview the Doctor and ask to make sure he/she has a plan. Partnerships rarely work. I suppose with a proper well thought out written agreement, anything is possible, however I don’t recommend it. Lastly I think the best way for an infant to learn how to swim is to be thrown into the water, AND we wouldn’t do that to ourselves if we were thinking. The most successful way to learn something is to model it. Over 80% of communication is non-verbal and is usually left out in the “manual.” Therefore finding an associate position which is much like the extension of the Preceptorship with specific learning goals, a chance to build your own practice inside along with a successful way out would be the fastest way to learn what it takes to Own Your Dream Practice.


3 Comments for this entry

Dr. Toni Best
April 7th, 2008 on 8:02 pm

This post really gets the wheels turning Dr. White. I’m wondering if you can give us more on the pros and cons of opening up on our own and associating with another doctor.

Dr. Toni Best
April 7th, 2008 on 8:03 pm

Also, do you have any tips on finding the right associate experience? I have heard so many stories of different associate experiences, it would be great to have some pointers on how to find the right one. Thanks!

August 11th, 2020 on 4:48 pm

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