Christie Kahlon, PharmD, MBA, BCPP, BCGP
Clinical Pharmacy Specialist - Mental Health
Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Making the transition from resident to preceptor can be difficult and the challenges sometimes minimized. Residents are busy towards the end of the year completing projects, writing manuscripts, finding jobs, and researching a new area to live. Discussions surrounding becoming a preceptor may fall to the wayside. Despite completing residency on a Friday and starting my position the following Monday, my transition went smoothly with help from outstanding mentors. Some common concerns for those making this transition include: how to gain confidence as a preceptor, how to get past a narrow age difference, and how to build your preceptor skillset.
Pharmacists often feel the need to know everything upfront which can conflict with being a lifelong learner. Learners will ask you questions you do not know the answer to, and that is okay. Gaining confidence as a preceptor has been my biggest challenge, and the process continues to this day. One of the most effective ways to gain confidence is to have good mentorship. A strong mentor will help you grow at an appropriate pace and succeed as a new preceptor through regular discussions and communications. Having someone that is established in a field who believes you are an excellent practitioner will boost your confidence. Mentors are also helpful in reminding you not only of your strengths and achievements, but with also providing you opportunities to grow, which in turn builds confidence. CPNP offers the opportunity to connect residents with mentors, which is an excellent opportunity to expand your experiences beyond residency. Mentors will be there for questions you have along the way when you don’t know who else to ask.
Your confidence as a preceptor can build through your clinical confidence as well. Getting to know providers you work with through case discussions will help you understand their perspectives while building their trust in you. As providers’ trust increases, they will come to you with more questions. Modeling this rapport for the students and residents you precept will be beneficial for them. Additionally, continuing to follow journals and reading articles regularly will help build your knowledge and allow you to feel capable to answer questions for providers, as well as resident/student trainees. Seek out journal clubs or presentations to attend or lead in your facility or through CPNP. These group activities help to stimulate discussion, knowledge, and confidence. They can also be excellent opportunities for trainee learning. Offering to present an educational activity such as a CPNP community presentation will help build your knowledge and grow your credibility as an expert with your peers, which is highly desirable to our residency accrediting body, ASHP.
Some new preceptors will be younger than learners on their rotation, which may feel peculiar. Being a good preceptor doesn’t mean you’ve had to be doing it for years. I’ve actually found a unique bond with learners because of our narrow age gap. I have found learners appreciate the dedication I put into their learning experience. Going back to the first point regarding confidence, if you are a professional, confident, and committed preceptor, age gaps or lack thereof will be inconsequential. If there is concern over the age difference, remember to always stay professional and lead by example through respectable patient and provider interactions.
Finding your precepting style and gaining skills starts in residency and will continue throughout your career. During residency you start practicing your skills using the layered learner model. Thinking back to your experiences as a resident and working with different preceptors, you may take bits of each preceptors’ styles to create your own. Your mentor will also play a big role in developing your skillset. Being part of a treatment team will allow you to learn from other providers’ precepting styles even if they work in a different discipline. In addition to hands-on learning, there are many resources for preceptor development nationally and there are likely opportunities within your facility. Dr. Vickery provides a nice overview of available resources for precepting in the January 2019 issue of The CPNP Perspective. ASHP also offers an annual meeting focused on education and networking for pharmacy preceptors and residency directors.
Overall, my best advice is to utilize your mentors to help you through this transition and remember that you’ve put in years of hard work to become a preceptor. Enjoy!