Preceptor Corner

Author: Jonette B. Owen, Au.D.

Did you ever stop and ask your student what he/she are hoping to gain from the time they spend with you during a clinical rotation? Have you asked why they want to be an Audiologist? I’m sure you have, however, have you then taken their answers a step further and incorporated those answers into their experience with you? For example,
  • Have you shared your professional story with the student, including the important personal attributes that have made you successful?
  • Do you actively communicate with the students regarding their areas of strengths and weaknesses on a daily basis? Do you listen to their ideas?
  • Do you set aside time to share your knowledge and discuss the latest trends in audiology and hearing technology?
  • Do you explain that competence with each patient appointment includes considering the uniqueness of the individual’s needs?
  • Do you brainstorm with your student on leadership, such as how to monitor and advocate for, when necessary, legislative issues on both the state and national levels?
  • Do you invite your student to join you in professional activities, such as professional meetings, the monthly Chamber of Commerce or other community activism group that you are a member so they can see first-hand the importance of community involvement?
  • Have you worked with the student as a team, taking time to mutually understand each other, and holding each other to be accountable and actively engaged in achieving and exceeding shared goals?
I’ve asked you a lot of questions. Why? These questions will lead us to identify some of the characteristics students are looking for in a preceptor that go beyound mere clinical supervision and eduation, but expand into the student’s real-life concerns regarding becoming a professional.

Personal Attributes: There are many personal attributes listed by students as being highly desirable in their preceptor. Some of them are; demonstrates patience, tolerance, and acceptance of various methods of reaching the same result. These traits seem to have a calming effect on the student as they continue to develop their skills and find their style. Students genuinely desire to please their preceptor and take pride in contributing to a “good” clinic day.

Communication Skills: Preceptors who take the time to reflect on the message they are sending to their student, rather than responding reactively, is a highly desired trait. Reflective verses reactive feedback results in more positive acceptance in meassaging and outcomes in behavior. Messages delivered days or weeks after the fact have a negative impact on the student. Delaying feedback to which the student is caught off-guard with a multitude of corrections can be challenging to process all at once often results in a downward spiral. Students are seeking daily, honest feedback from their preceptors; they want to know how to improve. Constructive feedback, when given in a timely fashion, produces the most positive results.

Knowledge: Good preceptors demonstrate an understanding of the importance of being a life-long learner and encourage the student to share current trends they are learning at their educational institution. Preceptors can consider how to incorporate these new ideas into their current protocols, when appropriate, and display a willingness to expand the student’s knowledge base with the history of the earlier rational for the office protocols currently utilized.

Competence: Preceptors who are confident in their approach to patients care, through the use of best practices are held in high esteem. It has been noted that preceptors perceived to be demonstrating genuine care and concern for their patients are considered “better” clinicians, and the ones the students desire to model. Being actively ingaged in the patient's health care rather than being passively aware adds to the interprofessional education model currently being widely implemented in today’s clinical education models, of which students are eager to participate.

Leadership: Preceptors actively involved on the profession side of audiology, regardless of the level of involvement, offer a different perspective to the student. Many students recognize change and embrace the opportunities that await them. However, they don’t have the experience to chart a successful course of action impacting their future profession. A preceptor can become a mentor and provide guidance and support for student involvement in advocacy. The beauty of leadership is it comes in many forms. The experiences you share with your student may be on a community level with little or no direct audiology connection that is just as important. The networking, teamwork and organizational skills that you will be providing the student can lead to many opportunities for the student down the road.

Professionalism: Preceptor actions that demonstrate a level of professionalism that is both respectful and genuine to patients, their significant others, staff, colleagues, students, and community in general. Students are looking for individuals that walk the walk as opposed to just talk the talk. Worse yet would be the expectation of a higher level of professional behavior from the student than the preceptor demonstrates to the student and patient.

Teamwork: Good preceptors take the time to find out and understand the learning style of the student and facilitate learning by including the student as part of the team. These preceptors show respect for the student’s opinion and allow for mistakes along the way as the student continues to develop a deeper diagnostic understanding of the patient.

The above is obviously not an exhaustive list of characteristics that make for a good preceptor, but they are some of the characterists students have expressed as being the ones they look for and value when given the opportunity to experience. Most of the characteristics included above expand upon the life skills that many students possess but have had little opportunity to cultivate in a semi-protected academic environment. Students are looking for more than honing their technical skills, from their preceptors, at their off-campus clinical site rotations. Students are also looking to develop their professional image through professional modeling behaviors. By incorporating as many of these personal and professional attributes into your time precepting, you will be helping to develop a well-rounded future colleague that will promote audiology in the future as we would like it to be: Advancing.    
Jonette B. Owen, Au.D. is Assistant Dean Practice and Assessment of Audiologic Medicine at Salus University- Osborne College of Audiology. Dr. Owen’s experience is multifaceted, having served in clinical and academic settings, including substantial experience precepting. Dr. Owen obtained her Au.D. from PCO School of Audiology, MS in Audiology from Towson State University and BA from Loyola College Maryland. Dr. Owen is a member of the Audiology Honor Society and established the Gamma Chapter of Alpha Upsilon Delta at Salus University in 2016. In 2017 Dr. Owen was inducted into the National Academies of Practice as a Distinguished Practitioner and Fellow. Dr. Owen is the Chair of the Pennsylvania State Board of Examiners in Speech-Language and Hearin