The Privilege of Precepting Students

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
February 16, 2011

The Privilege of Precepting Students

I have the privilege to precept students from time to time in the ICHP office.  Not as many as I would like, but on the other hand, sometimes more than I would care for.  It just depends on the time of the year and more importantly on the attitude of the students.  However, with the privilege come responsibilities and benefits.  I’d like to share my thoughts on those responsibilities and benefits because I get the impression that some of you still may not have identified all of them.

First let me say that ICHP is not your typical preceptor site.  We don’t provide direct patient care, and we don’t even handle drug products.  We provide services to our pharmacist, pharmacy student and pharmacy technician members.  We are involved in activities that most work sites are not and we are not involved in most of the activities conventional pharmacy sites are.  Having communicated that, I still have a responsibility as a preceptor to make sure that the student or students have an active and educational rotation.  They still need to have the opportunity to contribute to the operations of our site and be held to a level of performance that I would hold any pharmacist employee of ICHP to for any given task or responsibility. Also, the activities must be educational.  These activities shouldn’t include taking out garbage, cleaning offices or even moving files although sometimes that’s exactly what I do as part of my job.  

So I have a responsibility to teach.  I often teach them how a bill becomes a law in Illinois, including each step in the process so that after they complete their formal education, they can become fully engaged citizens of the State of Illinois.  This is similar to how you may teach the students you precept on a hospital rotation how medications are safely dispensed from your pharmacy, including the steps of pharmacist medication order review, medication distribution and medication administration.  

As a preceptor, I have a responsibility to introduce students to things they haven’t learned or experienced in pharmacy school.  That’s one thing we can do well at ICHP.  Most students do not get much exposure to legislative lobbying, regulatory negotiations or educational planning.  When a student completes a rotation at ICHP, they will not be qualified to lobby a member of the General Assembly, but they might have seen it done once and have a better idea of how they might approach their own legislator in the future.  This is much like students you may precept on a general medicine rotation who are exposed to a transplant service.  They won’t be qualified to step into the role of a transplant specialist in their first job, but they will have a better understanding of what additional education and training they need to get there!

As a preceptor, I have a responsibility to lead.  Leading students is best done by example.  In fact, instructing a student to behave or perform in one manner and then acting differently myself, fails all the time.  Pharmacists in general are leaders.  We often are asked to solve institution-wide problems that impact multiple departments and multiple healthcare providers.  Leading by coaching is also critical.  You can’t expect someone to automatically pick up a task and succeed without some level of coaching – even with six to eight years of higher education!  

So if teaching, leading and coaching are all responsibilities of precepting, what are the benefits?  To me, the primary benefit is helping mold the future pharmacy practitioners in a manner that you feel is appropriate and effective.  These new practitioners will become your colleagues, and wouldn’t it be nice to know that they learned the “right way” or at least “your way” to do things!  

From a practical and selfish viewpoint, if you are a pharmacy director or manager, the most important benefit of precepting is the five to six week job interview you receive with every student who goes through your rotation.  You find out who would be a great hire and who works hard, and you also find out who you wouldn’t consider if a position became available!  Students: pay attention here!  If you find yourself headed to a rotation site that you might want to work for once you’re a pharmacist, put everything you have into the rotation.  Just as important, even if you think you will never be coming back to a site for a job or future rotation, give it everything anyway.  Pharmacy is a small world; directors and managers talk and most seldom forget!  Think about it pharmacists, whether you are a director, manager or worker bee, if you help precept a winner, make sure the powers that be know about it.  The same goes for the slacker.  Make sure you’re not stuck next to a new hire that you already know wasn’t a high performing student!

Another benefit is the mentor/protÉgÉ relationship that could lead to a lifelong friendship.  Students frequently seek mentors and often correctly believe that a mentor can make their future.  However, a protÉgÉ can often make a mentor’s future, too!  The student pushes the mentor to new heights.  They challenge the status quo and sometimes help the mentor realize that there are other ways to accomplish tasks.  Most importantly, lifelong friendships in pharmacy are a most valuable commodity.

Finally, and probably least important, except from an instant gratification perspective, precepting students can save ICHP members money!  If you are a preceptor and are attending the ICHP Spring Meeting or the ICHP Annual Meeting later in the fall, ICHP wants to thank you for your service by saving you money.  If you bring a student who you are currently precepting to the meeting with you, we’ll let you both attend for half price!  That’s a $112.50 savings for the pharmacist, and a $17.50 savings for the student!  Or probably more likely, the pharmacist will save $95 from a pharmacist full meeting registration fee and will be able to bring the student along for free!  This is not a bad deal either way.  There are a couple of catches.  Both the pharmacist and student must be ICHP members to qualify.  The student also must be on rotation at the pharmacist’s site during the meeting.  ICHP believes the Spring or Annual Meetings provide an alternate learning experience to traditional rotation activities!

So do you precept students?  Do you understand the privilege of precepting?  Are you realizing the responsibilities and benefits of this important undertaking?  ICHP encourages you to become a preceptor and enjoy the privilege! ΓΆβ€"Β 

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