Preceptor Corner: The Hidden Value of Precepting

Author: Jonette B. Owen, Au.D.

As health care providers we are inherently wired to help others. The ability and level to which we help others manifest itself in many ways. Precepting is one way of helping, paying it forward for the future of the profession. Precepting is an admirable gift of service that holds its primary reward in the future. It is one that we may not have the opportunity to witness to closure; the successful completing of a student’s clinical education program that results in the Au.D. degree conferral.

Often one of the indirect questions asked of me by prospective preceptors is “What’s in it for me?” It is easy to determine that precepting is going to require adjustments to the flow of patients and extra time to explain complex cases to the student. What isn’t as readily visible are the beneficial byproducts of the preceptor sharing her knowledge, skills and values in ways that may not be readily seen. Here are three reasons why precepting can enhance the way audiologists practice.

A. New Perspective of Your Practice
If you are not part of the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2004*), you could benefit from working with Au.D. students that are in this generation and encountering their perspective. In 2014 the Census Bureau reported approximately 83.1 million Millennials, which is estimated to be one-quarter of the nation’s population.

It is often the Millennials that are providing some level of caring for their parents and grandparents. The Millennials are acquiring the information and making decisions for the Baby Boomers (1946-1964*), the Silent Generation (1925-1945*) and the Greatest Generation (1924 or earlier*). The Millennial Au.D. student can offer real life perspective to what they look for in health care services for their loved ones. While the patient is the primary concern once in the office, getting the person to become a patient may be resting with those charged with overseeing the health care. Being able to relate to the multiple generations can be a key to long term success in your pratice.

B. Future Practice Plans
As a preceptor, you agree to expand the Au.D. student’s knowledge and skills from the foundations they secured through their on-campus programs. In doing so, you are participating in the molding of the future of the profession. You have introduced the student to your patients and engage the patient as an important participant in the educational process. You are introducing the student to your professional value set, built on the ethics of sound business principles and the codes of ethics as stated by the professional organizations to which you belong.

No matter how long the student clinical rotation is, a few months or an entire year, your values will be imparted on the student as they assist in the hearing health care of your patients. Your patients will come to enjoy participating in the service you are providing to the profession by taking a student under your wing. Participation in an educational program is often viewed by patients as a positive indicator of your professionalism. Should the day come to expand either the scope of practice, by adding services or locations, you have already had an opportunity to ’preview‘ the applicants that may be applying. This has many advantages including the potential for a shortened search process, shortened onboarding & learning curve for the office procedures, and finally, quicker acceptance of your current patient base to accepting care from another provider. The patients may already be familiar with the new audiologist, as they remember them when they were students.

For the new audiologist, it provides the advantage of quicker trust-building from the patient. In the eyes of the patient, it can be a ‘stamp of approval’ from you that you hired a former student, someone you helped train and that you know is a great match for the patient base. The newly hired audiologist who is a former student knows what you expect of them and how you expect your office to run. At some point, we all look forward to retirement. Who else would you rather leave your patients with then someone you helped train? They know your style and what the patients have come to expect from their audiologist.

C. The Win-Win Scenario
Serving as a preceptor is a critical role in clinical education regardless of discipline. The real-world application of foundation principles is critical to the success of any practicioner. The students benefit from your knowledge and experience allowing them to be fine tuning their diagnostic technique as well as their interpersonal interactions with patients. The most impactful memories relayed by Au.D. alumni are related to the clinical experiences that they had with their preceptors and how these experiences have shaped their professional lives. To this day I will always be greatful to my precetor, mentor and later post-graduation friend, Dr. Vic Gladstone. Who do you remember?

On the complementary side of the Win-Win Scenario, I hear from precetors the pleasant surprise of what they are learning from their students. Students have revitalized their professional enthusiasm and gave them cause to think about what they are doing rather than just going through the motions that come with years of experience. We even had some preceptors who said their return to school to pursue their Au.D. was prompted by working with students. Even the office staff have commented on the welcome change that the presence of the students make in the office, adding awareness to the importance of the staff’s job in the patient care process. If you are not already a clinical preceptor, consider becoming one. Students are sponges they want to absorb everything they can. Their positive attitue is rather contagious, which is good for you, your practice, and the profession.    

*American Generations Fast Facts CNN Library August 27, 2017.
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 Hearing.