First impressions are lasting according to the old adage, and this rings true for the placement experience offered to a student. As the preceptor, you need to plan an orientation that will kickstart the educational experience and set the stage for a successful placement.
An orientation introduces the student to you (the preceptor), other key personnel, the facility, and the learning opportunities available to the the student. A well-planned orientation includes a review of roles and expectations for students and preceptors, identification of learning goals with strategies for meeting these goals, parameters or limitations of the placement, and key timelines. The student orientation helps to create a positive learning environment for the student and generates excitement about the placement experience.
The preceptor is responsible for instructing and developing the capabilities of the student through their engagement with the educational process. Preceptors guide the student in identifying and locating resources for information, including speaking with other members of the clinical team as well as researching books and journals. Preceptors set a positive example through an inquisitive approach that values seeking out new knowledge, and helps the student interact with other health care professionals.
As a preceptor, you can function as a role model and motivate the student when you lead by example. Take the time to introduce the student to colleagues who inspire you, and recognize opportunities within the facility that may engage the student and spark their interest in participating. Set the bar for performance beyond merely acceptable and be clear about your expectations of the student.
Another responsibility of the preceptor is to give effective feedback to the student. To facilitate a smooth feedback process, discuss expectations with your student early in the placement regarding the content that will be assessed and the process that will be used to give feedback. Ask your student what feedback methods work best for them. Making the effort at the start of the placement to clarify what you and your student expect of each other will ultimately save you time.
When giving feedback, it is important to be honest and focus on behavior and actions using concrete examples. Provide suggestions the student can utilize during their placement, and offer to be a resource for them when they have questions or concerns. Choose a comfortable, private location and schedule the feedback session in a timely fashion. Setting the stage for the feedback process by preparing your student and yourself for what to expect will help make the most of these sessions.
Being a preceptor is an additional duty, however, you still have a responsibility to the patients under your care. It is important to identify potential risks and encourage the development of judgment and actions in the face of these risks. Preceptors can do this by modeling how they prepare for and manage risk while remaining an advocate for the patients and the student. Though we want our students to do as much as possible, preceptors are still responsible for their patient assignment.
Seek chances to assist students in making connections to learning opportunities within the placement agency, and be flexible enough to facilitate learning opportunities that arise throughout the placement.
Provide appropriate introductions to others who may influence the student’s professional or career development, and promote awareness of contributions made by the learner to the placement agency.