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Humboldt County Lexie Sabella, a student in the physician assistant Class of 2016, recently completed a clinical rotation in rural Eureka, California.

Preceptors are health care providers who volunteer their time to teach, evaluate, serve as role models and aid in developing competencies in students working to become future providers. The School of Nursing’s nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs emphasize community-based, primary care clinical experiences with clinical rotation sites in urban and rural settings throughout California. In order to expand the number of rural sites, school leaders partnered with health organizations and providers in Humboldt County.

“Sharing with others spurs a dynamic ripple effect,” explained Maryanne Riley, a nurse practitioner at Redwoods Rural Health Center. “I hope they learn as much as they can from all members of our team to gain perspective and awareness of their potential roles in a primary care setting.”

The Humboldt County preceptor program began with eight students spending four weeks each in clinical rotations in one clinic during the 2014-2015 academic year and grew to 10 students spending six weeks each in clinical rotations at seven different primary care or clinical-specialty settings during the 2015-2016 school year.

“My rotation in Eureka was awesome,” recalled Dessie Paraskevas, a physician assistant student. “I was blown away by the interdisciplinary approach and how it embodied the spirit of the School of Nursing.”

A grant from the Office of Statewide Health and Planning Song-Brown program jumpstarted the initiative and provided three years of funding. New support from providers in the community, including St. Joseph Hospital Foundation, Redwood Memorial Hospital Foundation and Partnership HealthPlan, will enable as many as 40 students to deliver care and receive on-the-job training.

“It’s very important that this partnership continues,” said Andrew Michaels, St. Joseph Hospital’s chief of cardiology. “This experience is good for students’ careers as well as well as our community.”

The School of Nursing is committed to building a sustainable, long-term pipeline of future clinicians dedicated to rural health care in Humboldt County and beyond.