We’re going to answer a LOT more than that question here, so hang on.
The short answer is “probably not.” There is no requirement for the internship to be a paid position. If you have found such a scenario, you’re probably lucky. In most cases where someone is being paid, they are already an employee of the facility (in another capacity such as a department head) where they are going to do their internship. All others are there on their own time and since they have to have a means of living, they are either dependent on a spouse to be working, have a pension or other savings of some sort they’re falling back on during this time, or, in many cases, they are doing the internship in their “true” spare time…after work and on weekends.
The Preceptor, therefore, does NOT have to be present when you are doing your internship hours. There are times, yes, when that is clearly optimal (and required) but there are other times when the AIT can be accomplishing their training (under the tutelage of various department heads) at other times that work for everyone involved. Flexibility is the key to making this work.
Some of the PITFALLS in the program actually occur when the AIT is employed at the facility… They are tempted to continue to work in their normal job and are simply “filling the square” and not actually gaining the experience they’re designed to gain from working in the other departments. This is not ideal, clearly, and it falls jointly on the Preceptor and the AIT (probably mostly on the AIT to be selfish about their training...and to get out of their comfort zone and do things they're not used to doing) to ensure that this does not occur…that the experience in the other departments is actually gained.
ADDITIONAL PITFALLS that both the Preceptor and the AIT need to guard against include a number of things. AITs are all different. Everyone who goes through the program comes to the table with a varied background. Some actually have “expertise” in some areas and therefore, it could be “tempting” to the Preceptor to “exploit” that expertise for the benefit of the facility. To small degrees (within the confines of the hours set aside for each module) that might be acceptable (the facility probably will benefit from the presence of these AITs in many different ways). But, like the department head who is tempted to sit at their desk and do their normal job, this person also has a lot of OTHER things they need to experience and they should not be “used” in this manner to the detriment of their AIT experience. Likewise, the Department Heads who are helping to train the AITs (through the mentoring of the Preceptor) should actually have a “plan” of things for you to do and should not be using the AIT for “slave labor” just to get some things done that nobody wants to do… filing, cleaning closets… there should be a “purpose” for the tasks you are asked to do, but SOME “rolling up your sleeves” and getting dirty SHOULD still be expected. The AIT should not expect to show up in a coat and tie and walk around looking good while they learn. They can expect to participate – but they also have limitations. Some may be “CNAs” or “CMAs” or “nurses” or whatever and therefore MAY be trained or “signed off” on doing certain tasks, but when it comes to “lifting” residents and those sorts of specific tasks (this is merely one example), if the AIT is not signed off on doing them, they should not be doing them (in the interest of the care for the residents).