Letters on Precepting: Dear Pharmacy Preceptors… (Part 1)

by Amy Smith, as part of her Green Oncology series

The Issue:        

During my “on-again, off-again” relationship with formal education, I have experienced experiential learning from both sides.  As a pharmacist, I gained experience as a preceptor and as a PharmD student, once again I am the student myself. 

I am writing from a unique point of view.  A collection of experiences has led me to realize the features I appreciate in a preceptor and a student (upcoming part 2).  My first letter… Dear Pharmacy Preceptors


The Advice:

1)      Allow your students to take on responsibility

As pharmacists, it is ingrained in our culture to strive for perfection.  As teachers, we need to loosen our grip and allow students to share our responsibilities in patient care.  With some probing you can determine a student’s capabilities and begin supporting the development of skills.  Students are willing to take on responsibilities and it will lighten your workload as a pharmacist and a preceptor if you let them do so. 

2)      Help students add value

Students want to take on projects which will add value.  Projects can benefit patients, individual pharmacists, the pharmacy department, or the organization but students want to see their work has purpose.  No busy work.  If a student must meet a presentation learning objective, select a novel topic which interests staff not a topic which has been covered in nauseating detail. 

3)      Display mutual respect and compassion

Mentors and preceptors who have a positive impact display mutual respect and caring.  Students quickly transform into colleagues and should be treated with the same respect.  Gift your students with compassion.  A student’s life is plagued with all sorts of instability:  financial, personal, career.  You may be challenged with a conflicting personality, however, as in all professional environments, respect and compassion should remain.    

The Bottom Line:

Allowing your students to take on responsibility and lessen your own workload will assist in developing their skills as future practitioners.  All students should be approached with the respect and compassion you would have appreciated as a student.  The role of the preceptor is difficult however “the teacher is the one who gets the most out of the lessons, and the true teacher is the learner”Elbert Hubbard.

Amy Smith is a graduate of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan.  After completing a hospital residency program with the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, Amy began working with the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency in Saskatoon as a pediatric oncology pharmacist.  She is now attending the U of T post-baccalaureate PharmD program . During her time away from work, Amy enjoys traveling, volunteering and participating in a various athletics including powerlifting and running. Amy is a member of CAPhO's Communication Committee.