Preceptors will want to begin by reviewing course objectives as well as the student’s past clinical experiences while in the graduate program. Overall, preceptors are responsible for assisting students in refining the skills they need to provide quality patient care within the context of a particular clinical setting. The following general guidelines should assist the preceptor:
- Ask the student what specific clinical competencies they hope to achieve in this clinical rotation.
- On the first encounter, allow the student to observe your patient interactions. Explain to the student that as an experienced practitioner, you are able to move more quickly through your assessments, but that you will expect the student to be more thorough as a novice and require more information from the history and PE to arrive at accurate differential diagnoses.
- Directly observe the student’s interpersonal, psychomotor, and communication skills in history-taking and physical examinations at the beginning of the rotation. It is expected that while you will continue to assess the student’s skills throughout the rotation, through less direct methods such as verification of physical findings, having the student present patients to you, and review of student’s documentation, directly observing them in history-taking and physical examination is critical. Direct observation may allow you to quickly recognize any deficits that need remediation as well as provide you with the assurance necessary to allow the student more independence in his/her practice.
- When introducing patients to the student and asking their permission to see a student, explain to the patients that you will come back in at the end of the student’s exam to talk to them.
- Continue to listen to feedback that may be offered by patients, families, and office staff.
- Assist the student in identifying short-term goals and ways to meet them. Feel free to identify one particular skill that you ask the student to focus on each day.
- Freely ask a student questions that will help you to understand his/her clinical reasoning skills and knowledge of a particular clinical problem.
- Engage with a student by gently challenging his/her assumptions or diagnoses.
- There are many teaching strategies that can be employed to assist a student to learn the many facets of patient care: have the student follow-up patients with phone calls and referrals: review patient lab work with the student; assign the student a particular clinical question or problem to research.
- Recognize that clinical work is varied and unpredictable. Feel free to use alternative teaching strategies when patient load is too busy to allow adequate time for processing each patient with the student. Some preceptors have the student see patients individually in the morning and then have the student observe the preceptor in the afternoons when they get “behind.”
- Focus on quality rather than quantity with the student.
- Communicate early and freely with the student and faculty member about any concerns you may have.
*Let the student and faculty member know if the student does not arrive with the skills you expected or if they fail to make expected progress.
*Let faculty know if you become concerned that you do not have enough time to continue to precept. Preceptors often put unrealistic demands upon themselves when they precept. Faculty may be able to offer suggestions about ways to structure your day with the student so that you can continue to serve as a valuable preceptor without undue burden.