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The purpose of the clerkship is to provide students an opportunity to apply, under the supervision of a preceptor, the didactic training they received during the first year of their graduate study on campus. It is recommended that the student receive a formal orientation to the clinical facility, pathologists, pathologists’ assistants, staff, policies and procedures, laboratory information system and any other information deemed appropriate by the preceptor. The student should be provided with increased responsibility in the gross room and autopsy suite (commensurate with experience). At the conclusion of the ten months of clinical rotations, students are expected to have mastered the knowledge and skills necessary to function as an entry-level pathologists’ assistant (see student learning outcomes). Skills gained in the clinical setting are competency based and there is no minimum number of specific specimen types required although a clinical site must provide students with specimens from all CPT code categories and varying levels of complexity.

Additionally, the clerkships assist the student in refining interpersonal communication skills, experiencing professional socialization amongst various health care providers, and enhancing the ability to critically think and make decisions. The role of the pathologists’ assistant as a member of a team in the pathology laboratory will be emphasized.


The student should receive the appropriate level of supervision, dependent on the type of clinical experience (e.g. surgical pathology, autopsy pathology) and the student’s level of skill. The integrity of a surgical specimen or autopsy patient should never be jeopardized. In the event that the integrity of a specimen or autopsy patient is jeopardized in a way that the rendering of a diagnosis in pathology has been compromised, the preceptor should be notified immediately. Following preceptor notification, the student and the preceptor should notify the Director of Clinical Education immediately. This notification should be followed by written documentation from the clinical preceptor outlining the details. In the event that patient outcomes (e.g. diagnosis, treatment) are jeopardized as a result of critical or habitual/recurring errors on behalf of the student, the student will receive a grade of “F” for the applicable quarter and shall be subject to dismissal from the program. Any concerns with a student’s interaction with specimens and/or autopsy patients should be directed to the Pathologists’ Assistant Department’s Director of Clinical Education.


The Pathologists’ Assistant Program believes that professionalism is an important quality of a pathologists’ assistant student and future member of the healthcare team. In addition to satisfying the grading criteria as specified in the second year surgical and autopsy pathology syllabus, the student must pass a professionalism component in order to successfully pass each course within the clinical year. Criteria to be evaluated in the professionalism component will include, but not be limited to, the following areas:

  • Honesty
  • Rotation and Round-Up attendance and punctuality
  • Preparedness
  • Respectful and appropriate interaction with faculty, staff, preceptors and fellow students
  • Ability to work effectively as a team member
  • Overall attitude
  • Handling of complaints and disputes including following of established protocols and chain of command
  • Communication skills
  • Work ethic
  • Appearance and attire appropriate to place and situation as defined by faculty or facility

Work Hours

Attendance in clinical experiences is mandatory. Work hours are site specific, but must be documented by the student, be at least 40 hours a week, and be verified by the preceptor upon request. It is expected that students will set appropriate work hours with their clinical preceptor that will reflect the workload at their clinical site. For instance, if a majority of large specimens do not arrive in the gross room until late in the day, it is expected that student will adjust their schedule accordingly to allow them to gross these specimens. The program requests that the student not be expected to work an overnight shift. In general, students should consider the ten months of their clinical rotation(s) as a gross anatomic pathology residency. As such, they should fully immerse themselves in the day-to-day functioning of the anatomic pathology laboratory and it should not be uncommon to be there in excess of 8 hours a day. If the PAs work on weekends, students can be incorporated into the weekend workflow, however, it is requested that the student participate in weekend hours on a rotational basis or as make up time (detailed below).

Student Service Work Policy

Students may pursue outside employment at any point throughout their education at RFUMS; however, students may not be compensated for time spent performing the duties of a Pathologists’ Assistant, as this is a violation of programmatic accreditation standards. Any outside employment a student participates in may not compete with, or take the place of student education.


All absences taken for the following reasons need to be documented appropriately. Students must make up all missed learning experiences as a result of absences regardless of the reason.

Sick Time

There are no sick days given up front; however, if a student is sick and unable to attend their clinical site, they must notify their clinical preceptor and the Director of Clinical Education.

Holiday and Vacation Time

There is no discretionary vacation time during the ten months of clinical experience outside of the exceptions listed below.

While at a clinical site(s), students may take regularly scheduled hospital holidays at the discretion of the clinical preceptor. Additional time may be granted at the discretion of the clinical preceptor pending approval from the Director of Clinical Education for major life events (e.g. wedding of a family member, death of a family member, etc.), providing a minimum two weeks advanced notice where applicable. All students absent from their clinical site due to personal major life events will be required to complete the Clerkship Absence Request Form.

Job Interviews

Students should schedule job interviews in concert with the scheduling demands of the clinical site and upon the approval of the clinical preceptor and department, providing notification at least ten (10) days prior to interview, when possible. All time missed (interview date and travel time) at a clinical site for job interviews must be made up and will be rescheduled in concert with the preceptor and Director of Clinical Education.

Conference Attendance

AAPA Conference attendance is optional and permission is granted at the discretion of the Director of Clinical Education and the applicable site’s clinical preceptor. Approval must be requested in writing via email a minimum of 6 weeks prior to the start of conference. The Director of Clinical Education will send notification of approval to both the student and the student’s clinical preceptor.

Requirements for conference attendance (if approval is granted):

  • Students must attend all lectures delivered during their time at conference and provide proof of attendance to the Director of Clinical Education.
  • Students will submit a 250-word (minimum) essay reflecting on their conference experience.
  • Student essays and proof of attendance are due to the Director of Clinical Education 2 weeks after the end of conference.
  • If students do not attend the entire conference, time taken off from the clinical experience for traveling to and from the conference will need to be made-up.

Make-Up Time

Students must make-up all missed learning experiences and are responsible for material missed during their (excused or unexcused) absence(s). An excused absence is one due to an occurrence beyond the student’s control (e.g. illness, car accident, death in the family, etc.) that has been reported to the Director of Clinical Education and clinical preceptor. If a student receives two unexcused absences, the student will receive a failing grade and may be subject to dismissal. All absences, regardless of the reason, must be reported to the department and preceptor.

All students are required to report time made up. In order for time to be considered make-up time, students must comply with the following procedures:

  • The student must arrange to make up the time with their preceptor and received appropriate supervision while making up time.
  • The student must properly document make-up time in their weekly journal.
  • The student may not work through a scheduled lunch period or break period for make-up time.
  • The student may not add up the hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week to compensate for any time off (e.g. working 48 hours in a week does not make up an absence or missed 8-hour workday).

Student Related Work Injury Protocol

The hospital shall provide emergency medical care and treatment to students and staff in any instance of injury or illness occurring at the hospital. The expense associated with such treatment shall be the responsibility of the individual student and their health insurance provider. The student must notify the supervisor or preceptor prior to leaving the department to seek medical evaluation and/or treatment and report to occupational health, the designated office for reporting work-place injuries or the ER. The student should inform their preceptor and the Director of Clinical Education or their designee immediately following an injury or illness for documentation of the incident. Lastly, the student is required to contact the Office of Student Affairs at Rosalind Franklin University.

Each student shall read their hospital’s safety manual and procedures for appropriate plan of action and preparation should an injury occur during the clinical training.

During the first quarter of clinical rotations, the clinical preceptor will complete a mandatory Evaluation of Safety in Surgical and Autopsy Pathology. The evaluation, as developed by the program, is intended as a tool for use by clinical preceptors as a safety reminder to the student and to possibly aid in reducing accidental exposures. The aim of this checklist is to reinforce accepted safety practices and foster better communication and teamwork between the preceptor and the student.