Frequently Asked Questions
Being a preceptor is an exciting opportunity both for you and the student(s) you have been assigned. You may, however, have questions about being a preceptor in general or about how to be more effective in your role. The following Frequently Asked Questions will hopefully help you as you participate in this very important teaching responsibility. If you have other questions that are not addressed here, please contact the program you are working with.
The preceptor is an experienced professional who shares his/her knowledge and skills, and guides the student while performing their regular duties. The preceptor has many roles which may include teacher, instructor, educator, tutor, trainer, coach, mentor, role model, boss, observer and leader. The preceptor should:
- Embody confidence, capability and enthusiasm in their chosen profession.
- Possess excellence in leadership and mentorship abilities.
- Display patience, empathy and tact.
- Communicate well with co-workers, staff, clients and students.
- Set realistic expectations and goals for themselves, co-workers and students.
- Provides feedback in a constructive manner.
The specific requirements are different for each program, but for all programs the requirements are: a desire to teach others, expertise in your field, excellent communication skills and a passion for what you do. A passionate, knowledgeable and skillful expert is the best role model for the profession.
The preceptor is an experienced professional who mentors and teaches the student while carrying out their usual duties. The preceptor is responsible for assessing the student’s knowledge, skill and judgment in day-to-day activities, and determining what specific duties and skills the student shall perform. As mentors, guides and teachers, preceptors have many roles and responsibilities, and perform numerous functions. Please check the Preceptor Orientation Guide for the Saskatchewan Polytechnic program you are working with.
There are four interrelated aspects to the teaching and mentoring role:
- Role Model: The student observes, questions, analyzes and emulates the preceptor’s approaches, skills, interactions and abilities.
- Support System: The student’s primary contact with other staff, the public and any other clients is through the preceptor. As new learning takes place and new questions arise, the preceptor is available for discussion and feedback.
- Facilitator of Learning: The preceptor plans learning experiences which will enable the student to achieve agreed-upon objectives and gain professional autonomy. The preceptor shares expertise and guides the student in locating and utilizing appropriate learning resources.
- Evaluator: The preceptor continually assesses the student’s level of competency, provides suggestions for improvement, and acknowledges professional growth. The preceptor also completes and submits the Saskatchewan Polytechnic program evaluation forms.
- Do I have to be a preceptor?
Preceptorship is an important part of your professional responsibility. As a role model and expert in your field, you have a wealth of information and experience to share with the student. Remember you are aiding in the education of the next generation of professionals and your future colleagues! As teaching facilities may have different expectations for you, please check the Preceptor Guide for the Saskatchewan Polytechnic program you are working with.
- I have decided to be a preceptor. What do I have to look forward to?
Preceptors find there are intrinsic rewards in preceptorship. They have found that participating as a preceptor is an enjoyable, satisfying and stimulating experience. Preceptors often report a sense of accomplishment for having contributed to a student’s successful completion of an educational program and thereby helping a student enter his/her chosen profession.
- How many students will I have at one time?
In most cases, you should have only one student at a time but this could vary depending on the program. The preceptor is attempting to share their knowledge and teach the practical part of a profession to a student. To effectively teach the student, the preceptor has to focus on the student and their learning.
- Do I get relief time to be a preceptor?
Typically not. The preceptor role would be in addition to your other usual responsibilities.
- One of the preceptor’s responsibilities is to evaluate the student’s performance. How do I do that?
You will be evaluating students as they progress through their practicum/clinical experience on an ongoing basis. Each program has defined the evaluation process and procedure they would like you to follow. For specifics, please refer to your specific program.
- What do I do if my student is experiencing difficulty (i.e. not meeting the learning outcomes as set out by the program)?
Express your concerns to the student. The student should review the course objectives. Document your concerns, provide specific examples and contact the program. A learning plan may need to be implemented. Check the Program Preceptor Manual/Guide or contact your program for more guidance on this issue.
- What do I do when the student is acting in an unprofessional manner (i.e. not arriving on time, dressed inappropriately, not prepared)?
Express your concerns to the student. You could ask the student to review their clinical/practicum manual, paying particular attention to the student roles and responsibilities. If this doesn’t bring about a change in the behaviour, contact the course facilitator. Provide documentation of the events/behaviours. A learning contract may need to be developed for the student.
- What if I have other questions as I work with my student?
The preceptor has the advice and guidance of the program in carrying out your teaching activities. They are responsible for managing the preceptorship, and providing support to the preceptor and the student during the practicum/clinical experience. Should questions arise, please contact the individual listed for the program you are working with.