By: Jordan Welch, Pharm.D. Candidate 2022
Mentor: Sara Lingow, Pharm.D., BCACP
What is a preceptor? Pharmacy preceptors are mentors and educators to pharmacy students and residents. They facilitate approximately 30% of the Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum for student pharmacists via practice-based learning.1 The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) states that preceptor development is mandatory, but currently does not outline a specific set of requirements for the “optimal” preceptor.2 The council encourages pharmacy schools to recruit preceptors who excel in the areas of collaboration and professionalism, as well as strategic plan development.These qualities are vital when teaching students how to behave and interact with an interprofessional team, while also sharpening the student’s focus to achieve both personal and professional deadlines. In order to ensure a successful experiential education program, preceptor development, education, and engagement should not only be emphasized, but prioritized. 3
There are many challenges that experiential education offices face while implementing effective preceptor development.3 Content preparation and development poses a great obstacle to overcome with regard to the time it takes to create and deliver a program. Geographic location can become an issue if the content is being delivered in-person. The cost for continuing education (CE) accreditation can also serve as a drawback to preceptor development, as well as locating pharmacists that are interested in becoming a preceptor.3Additionally, it may be challenging for preceptors to dedicate time for additional development while also working full-time at their practice sites. This article aims to identify and provide potential solutions to the challenges of preceptor development through implementation of strategic, evidence-based programs.
A 2015 qualitative analysis discovered that pharmacy schools continue to face challenges creating and implementing developmental programs for preceptors.4 Preceptor development varies amongst pharmacy schools, with many taking an individualized approach to address the topic. Preferences for learning and teaching styles when designing and implementing a preceptor development program can vary by generations.3 Therefore, it may be optimal to offer more than one learning approach, such as online modules and in-person training sessions. It is also important to consider preceptor background, certification(s), and experience when designing a program.5 By taking these factors into account, the method of preceptor development should be approached as multifaceted.
A 2021 survey from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) was conducted to identify the needs of a preceptor based on his or her background and previous experience.5 Of the 272 respondents, a majority of the preceptors reported the highest need for skill development in precepting, leadership, and communication. For precepting skills needed, preceptors requested specific skill development in setting expectations, assessing performance, developing rotation activities, and managing generational differences. For teaching skills needed, effective didactic education strategies and patient counseling were most requested. For communication skills needed, promoting critical thinking was the most requested, followed by resolving conflicts, communicating feedback, and presentation skills. For leadership skills needed, implementing quality improvement projects, general leadership skills, and time management were similarly requested.Results were independent of years spent precepting and did not favor one skill over another.5
The survey found on-demand web-based programs for education delivery to be the preferred method amongst the preceptors. A high percentage of the survey respondents also appreciated a “tip of the week” email. Finally, the survey reported that 81% of preceptors prefer to use a survey as a tool to identify areas of self-improvement, followed by the strength’s finder. The learning styles inventory for preceptors and students’ assessment tool, student self-evaluation templates, and grading rubrics were also helpful instruments to utilize when identifying areas for improvement.5
The Canadian Experiential Education Project for Pharmacy published articles in a three-part series to determine best practice recommendations for the Canadian colleges of pharmacy experiential education program.6,7,8 The project aimed to streamline a national preceptor development program (PDP) that could be adopted by pharmacy schools in Canada, which has not been achieved elsewhere. Twelve recommendations were constructed to guide successful development and implementation of a PDP.6 The national PDP focused on the primary principles: preceptor performance and competency indicators, preceptor engagement strategies, and quality improvement/assurance measures to ensure ongoing feedback.8
The project proposes developing a web-based platform that allows rotation-specific training alongside continuous professional development for the preceptor.8 It is hypothesized that preceptors can interact with the online modules, once constructed, based on the twelve core recommendations.6,8 The electronic delivery platform will allow flexibility, sharing of resources and social networking between institutions and preceptors, and virtual collection of data that would provide insight for continuous adaptation. The final installation of the series was published in 2021, however, the website has yet to set a launch date.8
Preceptor development is a complex topic that requires a multi-level approach. Though a national program may be helpful, the limitations such as increased workload, insufficient time, and accessibility may support college- or site-specific programs. These could be spearheaded by experiential education offices and/or compensating the cost of pre-made preceptor development modules by national pharmacy organizations. Development strategies would ideally be no-cost to preceptors, and CE credit could be offered as an incentive to complete the additional training. Many pharmacy schools across the nation offer free CE to their preceptors.10-12 The American Pharmacist Association (APhA) and ASHP also offer continuing education credit for a fee. Pharmacy schools have the opportunity to develop modules or offer CE certified modules as an incentive to become a preceptor for their students.13-14 Based on feedback form the ASHP survey, a web-based, asynchronous program would allow for virtual delivery at a time that is most convenient for the preceptor.5
Approaching preceptor development from multiple angles by offering courses that encompass many skills is instrumental to both the program and preceptor success. Above all, it is important to assess the preceptor needs of each institution. Developing and adapting the training modules to fit the preferences of the preceptors is crucial for a successful experiential education program.9 Investment in educating the preceptors will not only be beneficial for the precepting pharmacist, but also ensure achievement of the ultimate goal – properly training students, the future of pharmacy.
Preceptor Development Opportunities for Missouri Pharmacists:
MSHP Preceptor Development Series: http://www.moshp.org/Professional-Development
UHSP Preceptor Development: https://www.uhsp.edu/experiential/preceptors/development.html