Tips for Being a Successful Preceptor
Do you want to help midwifery grow? One of the best things you can do is pass on your hard-earned knowledge to the newest generation of midwives. If you have wisdom to share, the tips provided here will assist you in becoming an effective and successful preceptor thoughtfully contributing to the future of the profession.
Start by gathering background about the student midwife. What education and experience preceded their entry into midwifery school? Is this someone with extensive prior knowledge and/or skills, or is midwifery the initial entry into a clinical situation? Does the student have awareness of their own learning style? Many students have already done a self-assessment , but if not, consider using a tool such as the VARK® Questionnaire. Knowing if a student learns best visually, auditorily, by reading and writing, or kinesthetically will help you hone your own teaching to match the student’s style.
Next evaluate and establish the learning objectives relative to this clinical rotation. What are the student’s expectations of the skills they need to acquire with you? Let the student know if these are well matched to your clinical site. This review of the student background and performing a clinical skills inventory should occur before the student is incorporated into any client visits.
Provide the student with an orientation to your practice, including an overview of the population you serve. This will assist them in being culturally and linguistically appropriate to your site. If you have office staff, introduce them to the student while explaining each of their roles within your practice.
The most effective clinical preceptors possess strong communication skills. Those attributes which are valued in midwifery practice – such as providing clear informed consent, answering client questions, and being able to put information into the context of an individual’s situation – are crucial to being a good preceptor. If you can present organized information with clarity, not only will you be providing effective role modeling, you will also be helping a student midwife connect didactic learning to clinical skills.
Make it clear to the student that there are no stupid questions. Be open to ideas and opinions which might be different from your own, and demonstrate that learning is an on-going process. Doing so will let the student know you value their input. You can engage a student by asking, “What do you think is going on here?” or “What do you see as the best next step?” However, be sure to ask outside of a client’s earshot, thereby allowing latitude for the student to make a mistake or have a misunderstanding without embarrassment.
Provide effective role modeling by demonstrating skills with patients in an organized manner. Consider using a step-wise method of teaching when no clients are present: 1) verbally provide an overview of the skill; 2) demonstrate the skill silently; 3) demonstrate the skill a second time, describing each action; 4) have the student verbally describe each step of the skill; 5) have the student perform the skill. Motivate the student by providing opportunities for them to then practice their skills within the clinical setting. Some midwives find it hard to step aside when a student is seen as fumbling through the steps, but know that this is crucial for their learning. Offer positive reinforcement as well as correcting errors, giving suggestions on how they might improve in the future while remembering to always tell them what they did well.
Most of all, remember to make learning fun. The student who you are teaching today may well become your valued colleague in the future.