By Aaron Morris, AAS, KCSA, CSA, CST

One of the most important tasks when I begin a cohort is assigning my students to a clinical site. In years past, this process was completed with a few emails. However, many hospitals are now keeping track of their clinical students through an online onboarding service. These websites have given hospitals the ability to access all student information in one place, which has made it much easier for hospital staff to coordinate their clinical rotations.

When preparing online surgical assistant students for a clinical rotation, organization is paramount. In my time as clinical coordinator, I have seen significant growth in the number of hospitals that require clinical onboarding for students. The process goes above and beyond what our program requires in student files, and often the website requires more information than what is asked of our students to enter the program. As this process continues to change, keeping accurate and organized records of students’ information is my number one priority when starting the onboarding process.

It is important to determine if your students will attend a hospital that requires clinical onboarding as soon as possible, and allow enough time to prepare. On average, it takes two to four weeks to complete the process from start to finish.

It is worth noting that if the hospital requires onboarding, then the student must complete the process, even if the student is currently employed by the facility. Once you know the number of students who will require onboarding, you must create or request a rotation at the hospital through the onboarding site.

The next task is to learn the specific requirements of the onboarding process. Most onboarding websites I have used require drug screens, background checks and vaccination information, but some require other information, such as health insurance verification and a pre-entrance physical exam from a physician.

Each onboarding site I have used charges the student a fee to complete the onboarding process. In most cases the fee is around $50, and the student is responsible for the cost. Once the student has paid the fee, the process of uploading required information begins. Much of the work is simply inputting dates, but there are instances in which I am required to gather more information from the student to complete the online form. This delays the onboarding process and forces the student to wait longer to begin their clinical experience. Therefore, it is critical to begin the onboarding process as early as possible to allow yourself more time to complete the requirements and not delay your student. Remember, any delay at the start of the program could cause them to not complete the graduation requirements on time.

At the conclusion of the onboarding process, all parties involved can access the website to view or update any required information so the student has a seamless clinical experience. The onboarding process can be tedious, but the result is beneficial for the student, school faculty and hospital staff.

Aaron Morris, AAS, KCSA, CSA, CST, is a clinical coordinator for the surgical technology and surgical assisting program at Madisonville Community College. He also serves as treasurer for the Kentucky State Assembly of AST.