Kelly HowardNot infrequently, students and pharmacists alike ask me why I choose to precept pharmacy students. The short answer is that I precept students for essentially the same reason I write this column. I’ve made a shocking number of missteps and bad choices in my career and, having emerged relatively unscathed thus far, I feel compelled to share with my colleagues in an effort to prevent them from following in my shaky footsteps. Or, as I say to my students, “Laugh at my pain — and then learn from it.”
If you are not a preceptor, you might feel justified in not taking it on. Here are eight reasons to make you reconsider.
1. Pay it forward. We all have a favorite preceptor whom we remember fondly and credit for some of our successes as pharmacists. You could be that preceptor to a fledgling student, and you should certainly try.
2. Stay current. I pride myself on learning something new at work every single day. When I have a student, I may learn 10 new clinical pearls or facts that day. PY4 students are literally unmined gold; their knowledge base is current and robust.
3. CE credit. As a North Carolina-licensed pharmacist, I can earn up to five hours of live CE credit every year for precepting students. Check with your state’s board of pharmacy to find out whether your state offers a similar incentive.
4. Expand your network. Just as kittens grow into cats and puppies into dogs, pharmacy students grow into pharmacists. You may currently be preceptor to a student who will someday be your manager or a practice innovator — or the first Pharmacist General of the United States.
5. Elevate your job prospects. Obviously, being a preceptor can be viewed as a resume builder, but what you might not have considered is the idea that your current student could be your future co-worker or employer. The last time I was actively seeking a job, I reached out to former students and asked them to notify me of openings at their places of employment, which did turn up some good opportunities.
6. Learn new technology. My stepson hates that I follow him on Instagram, and he has a former student of mine to thank for that. In fact, various former students have taught me most of what I know about Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and my iPhone. And that iPhone happens to be full of bookmarked clinical websites and many medical apps that I learned about through former students.
7. Develop future resources. Many of my former students went on to specialized careers, and these are the pharmacists I call when my generalist mind is stumped by an expert-level problem in the field. Currently on my phone-a-friend list are an ID pharmacist, an LTC pharmacist, and a compounding pharmacist, all of whom were former students who now act as unpaid consultants when I need their expertise.
8. Increase your access. Three jobs ago, I was at a rural critical-access hospital, practicing modern pharmacy with antique reference books. Precepting students from a large teaching university granted me access to the university’s online library and reference materials, which was a necessity for me at the time but is now just an added benefit. In addition, many schools of pharmacy will offer live preceptor training or professional development workshops at little or no cost.
Precepting is certainly not all rainbows and unicorns. Yes, I have had students who required more brainpower, emotional support, or career guidance than I ever felt prepared to give. I have found, though, that these are often the students with whom I still stay in touch and years later still think about with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
My advice to anyone thinking of becoming a preceptor? Follow in my footsteps in one of the few things I did right the first time — take the leap and precept.