Getting in the Mindset to Become a Successful Preceptor: How to Precept Responsibly

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Pharmacy Careers, Fall 2022, Volume 16, Issue 2

Students should prepare to be preceptors early in their pharmacy school careers.

The foundation of successful precepting begins with our experiences during advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs) in pharmacy school and continues throughout our careers as pharmacists. Theories of adult learning are so ingrained in the pharmacy profession that the transition from having a professor to having a preceptor seems fluid. But did you ever stop to think about what a preceptor is? What makes the role different from a teacher, mentor, or manager? Did you realize during your last APPE rotation that you would soon be a preceptor yourself?

These questions can be nerve wracking: What should I expect? How do I get the most from my APPEs? How do I make sure I can train pharmacy students, and what can I do to be ready? Given the expectation that pharmacy students develop seamlessly into preceptors, surprisingly little formal preparation exists for this next step in one’s career.

A pharmacy preceptor is an educator as well as a pharmacist. Preceptors can work in a health system, at a community pharmacy, a pharmaceutical company, or an academic medical center. Simply put, if pharmacists are present and provide further education, they are preceptors. The goal of a preceptor is to provide practice-based, hands-on experience in a clinical setting. They can be new graduates or seasoned pharmacists with over 10 years of experience.

To engage students, preceptors use tactics that can vary drastically, depending on personal style and past experience. As preceptors take on more students and residents over time, they fine-tune their skills and ultimately become better teachers for the next wave of pharmacy students. Given the need for well-refined and experienced preceptors, many pharmacy schools and institutions have created initiatives to develop this skill set, often referred to as preceptor development.

Despite this need, digestible content related to preceptor development and the fundamentals of being or becoming a preceptor have historically been absent. A lot of preceptor content comes in the form of extensive PowerPoint presentations and recordings, which both students and seasoned preceptors deprioritize because of their arduous nature. However, the content of preceptor development, from basic principles to advanced topics, is critical for us to advance in our professional careers as educators, no matter the setting.

With this in mind, we founded Precept Responsibly, a podcast with a mission to deliver material in a relaxing but informative manner. The idea for the podcast started as we went back and forth about how to encourage growth for preceptors at our own medical center.

With more than 15 years of combined preceptor experience, we set out to make precepting digestible and fun. We select topics strategically, focusing on areas of pharmacy practice that are difficult to grasp in any setting, such as dealing with burnout or imposter syndrome. We acknowledge that doing something in a specific way for years does not mean that it is the correct or only way. Therefore, we invite experts from across the country to chime in and lead discussions on various topics.

Some pharmacy students may not see the need to learn about precepting because they are just beginning their education. To address this, we are creating a series that outlines the fundamentals of preceptorship and the basic roles of a preceptor in practice. When approaching your first APPE, you should understand what to expect from a preceptor and how to make the learning experience best for you. Even with more advanced topics, the podcast provides a framework of what to expect and challenges to overcome for a successful rotation.

At some point, all pharmacy students will encounter a problem on a clinical rotation and may not have the experience to best manage it. By listening to the preceptors on our podcast, they will have access to diverse perspectives on how to handle such situations.

We are not perfect, nor should we strive to be the perfect preceptor; that simply does not exist. It’s about finding the right balance as you grow. Take what resonates and leave what does not. Our podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, on Instagram (@preceptresponsibly), and Twitter (@PreceptRespons).

About the Authors

David Hughes, PharmD, BCOP, is a 2016 graduate of the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and is PGY1 and PGY2 trained in hematology/oncology. He has been involved in preceptorship, research, quality improvement, and outcomes data singe finishing his residency and is a host of the podcast Precept Responsibly.

Jason Mordino, PharmD, BCCCP, graduated in 2011 from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston and is PGY1 and PGY2-trained in critical care. He has been involved in preceptorship since graduation and has served as the PGY1 residency program director at Boston Medical Center for more than 7 years.

Spencer Sutton, PharmD, is a 2020 graduate of the Northeastern University School of Pharmacy and completed his PGY1 and PGY2 in infectious diseases at Boston Medical Center. He recently accepted his first post-training position as an infectious diseases and antimicrobial stewardship pharmacy specialist at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.