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Your Preceptor Doesn't Owe You Anything

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

One student asked me, "What do I need to know before starting rotations?" and I said, "Make sure you go to the APPE orientation!" He replied, "Yes, I'm going to go, but what do I REALLY need to know to be successful?" Ah, I see. Lightbulb moments happen for us, too. I thought about all of the advice we give our students. All of it is so important: Dress professionally, don't be late, respect patient confidentiality. Students need to hear all of that. But what ELSE can we share with them? If I could have a do-over with that conversation, this is what I would say:

Your preceptor doesn't owe you anything. Sounds cruel, right? Don’t they at least owe you a good rotation experience? No, that’s on you. They are your cruise director except without the fun (sometimes). If you’re lucky, you get a little fun and little cheerleading. But your expectation should only be a template, a skeleton, a foundation, an outline of what the next 4-6-8 weeks will look like. You have to fill in the rest. Your preceptor is responsible for providing you a safe learning environment to learn what pharmacists do at that site. YOU are responsible for everything else: the learning, the opportunities, the projects, and ultimately the grade.

So here’s the big question: when given a template, how will YOU fill it in? How will YOU make it the best experience? Will you approach each day with an open mind ready to learn something new? Or will you sulk because you work in a similar place so you already know how this all goes? Will you up your game and ask for an opportunity to meet someone not on the team, shadow a specialist, spend half a day with a social worker, dietitian, or director of pharmacy? Or will you shy away thinking no one wants to spend time with a student? Will you ask questions about what projects you are responsible for, when they are due, and what other projects would help your preceptor? Or will you wait for your preceptor to give you all of that information?

Your preceptor doesn’t owe you anything. And when you put the responsibility on yourself to make the best out of every rotation experience, then your preceptor actually gives you everything you need.

What other advice have you heard or given about rotations that was outside of the norm? Comment below!


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