To earn any advanced medical degree, you will need to complete a varying amount of clinical placement hours. During this time, you will have a preceptor assigned to you that you will shadow and learn from to ensure you have the real work experience and skills you need for your future medical career.
Here are some tips for making the most of your time with your clinical placement educator.
Get to know your preceptor
Knowing as much as you can about your preceptor’s previous experience and education is a good place to start preparing for your placement in a healthcare setting. This can help you consider what you can learn from them and how to best spend any time you have with them. If you have a preceptor who has conducted or taken part in significant research, then you may want to learn more about that, for example.
On that note, be sure that you are well-versed in the operations of the clinic or hospital in which you are doing your clinical placement. Anything you know in advance will be a major help and allow you to more easily transition into your clinical placement.
While it is always good to ask questions, it is important to ask them at the right time. During your daily clinical rotations and shadowing of your preceptor, you will have opportunities to ask some questions, but plenty are likely best saved for when you have some one-on-one time. Asking too many questions while you are with a patient may start to cut into the appointment time and even annoy the patient.
Keep a small notebook with you and jot down observations and questions you can bring up later. This allows you to learn as much as you can from each experience. Do not assume you will remember all that you want to ask at a later time. During clinical placements, you will be doing so much that no matter how good your memory might be, you still need to take some notes.
Take full advantage of opportunities to meet
Your preceptor will have some time dedicated to meeting with you, and you should take full advantage of this. Consider spending any spare time doing what you can to expand your knowledge and learn from their experience.
Remember that there are no bad questions, and not all questions have to be patient-related. Asking about career experiences and advice on whatever problems you may be having is a legitimately good use of your time with your preceptor.
Learn to be a very attentive observer
When you are shadowing your preceptor, you need to take in all the knowledge you can. This means observing and noticing all the small details. While paying attention to what the patient has to say is very important, you also need to observe the body language of both your preceptor and the patient they are attending. You can observe things such as how your preceptor maintains a good, professional bedside manner, and how they interact with family members.
Be a good team player
Working in a clinical setting means working as a team. This means helping others whenever you can. Find opportunities to help out your preceptor and their colleagues whenever possible. Being willing to take on more or step in when an extra hand is needed makes it likely that you will have more unique experiences that you will learn from and use in your future career.
Treat your clinical placement like it is a real job
The goal of clinical placement is to give you real-world experience. You should always treat your clinical placement like it is a real job that you are getting paid for. Taking your clinical placement seriously will help you get the most out of it and avoid slacking.
Believe it or not, you can fail a clinical placement, but you also don’t want to just “pass”. Doing a fantastic job at your clinical placement can lead to job offers, great recommendations from your preceptor, and more.
Always show up on time and never leave before the day is supposed to be over unless requested to do so. Take advantage of opportunities to work longer hours if there is a need.
Also, make sure you are 100% clear on any dress codes. Some medical offices may have rules about accessories, make-up, or other aspects of your appearance. You will be expected to always appear professional and approachable.
Make sure you get feedback
Some preceptors are better than others at freely offering constructive criticism as well as compliments when you do a good job. It is important that you get feedback throughout the course of your clinical placement. Feedback is how you learn what you need to improve on and discuss how to make that happen. It is also where you learn your strengths and how to use them to offer the highest level of care possible.
It is important to ask for feedback if your preceptor seems hesitant to give it or if you are feeling unsure about anything you are learning or doing during the course of your clinical placement.
How do I find the best preceptor?
Many second degree MSN programs feature clinical placement services to help ensure that you find the best preceptor for your career goals. Rockhurst University online offers a program that allows nurses to get a second master’s degree in as little as four semesters of instruction. If you already have an MSN, you can earn your family nurse practitioner degree and advance your career and earning potential. All coursework is 100% online except for your clinical placements.
Your clinical placement is an exciting time full of challenges that you will enjoy learning from and overcoming. Your preceptor is your guide through these challenges and an invaluable resource. Clinical settings can be very busy, so it is important to make the most of any time you have with your preceptor. In particular, you want to make good use of one-on-one time whenever possible.