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Five Things Preceptors Look for in Students

Five Things Preceptors Look for in Students

As a Nurse Practitioner student, you are exhausted with your search for not just any preceptor but a perfect preceptor! You are hoping for that supportive, kind, teaching soul that will take you under their wings and mentor you. But you may be at the point that you are willing to take a micromanaging screamer just to complete your hours.

However, have you considered that preceptors have preferences too? For instance, they offer themselves willing to show you the ropes which requires them to slow their pace to accommodate students’ learning needs. In addition, preceptors negotiate malpractice insurance with your school to ensure they have a good contract. This process can be stressful, and most prospective preceptors consider looking for specific attributes before taking on a student.

If you are looking for a good preceptor consider the five attributes they look for in students:

1. Effective communicator

The relaxed feeling of social media may make it seem like you can send a quick direct message on your phone, and with some preceptors, this may be acceptable. I recommend you treat requesting for a preceptor like requesting for a job interview. There is a level of professionalism that is expected of graduate students, and this includes communicating effectively. The most professional approach is to send a letter (even if it is a direct message) introducing yourself and asking if you can email a copy of your resume. This can allow the potential preceptor to tailor their teaching for you. Be aware of grammatical errors when using voice-to-text which is a poor first impression. Be ready to be interviewed, after all, the preceptors want a good fit too.

2. Appropriate dress 

Prior to your first day of clinical, you should ask about the appropriate attire for the setting. Each setting has its own culture and it may be acceptable to wear Mickey Mouse scrubs with your lab coat in a pediatric setting. In most cases, NPs wear business casual attire under their lab coats.  Other things to consider is to avoid wearing perfumes for they can exacerbate respiratory conditions in your patients; consider wearing light make-up or practicing good skin hygiene to look your best. Many clinical settings have dress codes whether they are in written or not, it is up to you to inquire to look the part. This shows that you can plan ahead and are mindful of others.

3. Preparedness

On your first day of clinical be sure to show up early. Have your preceptor’s cell number in case of an emergency. Always bring your syllabus or email a copy to your preceptor ahead of time. This allows your preceptor to review the expectations to make sure your clinical experience meets the requirements of your school. Remember, you are not asking for a small favor but making an investment in a learning opportunity when choosing a preceptor. This takes time, effort, and preparation.

4. Open to criticism

Going from expert RN to novice NP and becoming aware of the vast amount of knowledge that you *don’t know* is very overwhelming.  NP students who portray a know-it-all attribute often create tension which can be frustrating to your preceptor.  Remember, learning is a process and your preceptor has to evaluate you. Therefore, be open to constructive criticism. Although it may be tempting to appear to understand care for a condition, it is ok to be honest that you lack knowledge in an area.  This will only set up your preceptor for frustration and you for failure.

5. Self-directed learner

Healthcare environments are busy. Sometimes the flow of the day can be rushed and there may not enough time for teaching. It’s ok to write your questions down and ask later. Preceptors prefer students who are self-directed learners. This means you are actively engaged in the patient’s care but also take notes, look things up, and ask questions. Be proactive in your learning and let your preceptor know you want to discuss certain topics or look out for specific patient presentations. This will help you become a well-rounded provider.

As a preceptor, I have worked with many students and treat bringing them to my job like bringing them home. A clinical environment is considered a confidential place whether it is office, hospital floor, or clinic. It is important that NP students practice respect for themselves, patients, and staff.  My colleagues are my work family and I share personal moments with them and my patients. I spend 40+ hours a week in this setting and invest myself physically and emotionally in my career.  Each semester, I volunteer to bring students to my employer so that I may enrich them and help them grow.  As an NP student, acknowledge that preceptors place themselves in vulnerable positions to help you achieve your academic goals. Be the valuable student that preceptors want to teach so they will remain willing to teach.