Remember what it was like to be new here? Before you knew which levels connect between all the buildings and which don’t, or how to check your paystub, or maybe even what IWK stands for (Izaak Walton Killam for those still searching). Maybe that was decades ago, or maybe you only joined the team this year. Whenever it was, someone on your team probably helped you out and taught you the ropes in your new role.
You may not have realized it, and they may not have either, but that colleague was acting as a preceptor.
A preceptor is someone who is more experienced, supporting someone who is less experienced, and that relationship is uniquely focused on learning and developing competencies for a job or role. Often when we think of this type of relationship, we think of students coming for a placement in a clinical environment but in fact, preceptorship happens for students and new hires, and in clinical and operational roles.
At the IWK, we have more than 1,000 staff acting in preceptor roles and in the last year alone, we had 1,451 students (not including medical students) across 39 disciplines. If you add in new hires, those numbers jump even higher.
Betty Ann Robinson, professional development consultant, and Lisa Clements-Titcombe, learning consultant, are on the IWK’s Learning Team and they know the importance of this type of learning and support.
“It sounds dramatic, but this environment can be life or death,” says Clements-Titcombe. “Before you get here, you can read how to do it, but it’s completely different doing something in the actual setting and getting to the point where you feel safe and confident doing it.”
That hands-on learning is happening across most areas at the IWK.
“Because we’re a health centre, we tend to focus on excellence in clinical care, but I would challenge us to think about that more comprehensively. We have excellence across all areas and when new people are joining those teams, they deserve the same sort of excellence in their preceptored experience,” says Robinson.
Sharing their experience as preceptors are two health promotion specialists working in the IWK’s Adolescent Intensive Services (AIS): Lila Pavey and Erica Adams. Both see the value in preceptorship for the students, but also for themselves and the IWK as a whole.
“I absolutely love being a preceptor. Preceptorship can be a lot of work but the more time, structure and organization the preceptor puts in at the beginning, the more independent, capable and empowered the student will feel and the more your team can collectively accomplish. It’s also a great opportunity for me to stay connected to emerging information and learnings from the student perspective. It’s a two-way learning street.”
Preceptorship is incredibly valuable in stretching the student experience in all directions. Having students get involved in the behind-the-scenes operations and understanding the bigger picture of the organization around them creates a well-rounded perspective. By taking on different roles and functions within the placement, a student is able to learn and observe how the more traditional roles are connected and dependent on the others,” says Pavey.
“Giving students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the workplace, and apply the skills and knowledge they‘ve acquired over years of school, can be extremely rewarding. Often times it can be challenging to transfer theory to practice. Placement tends to be a little bit of a reality check where they begin to understand more about that “art” of health promotion, not just the foundations and theoretical frameworks.
Within an organization as large as the IWK, there are so many important and diverse roles that aren’t traditional health care roles and without opportunities for preceptorship, students may not know they exist or understand how their particular interest is applicable to health care. Making preceptorship opportunities available in various fields is a great way to also recruit students into careers with the IWK, says Adams.”
This Friday, April 12 is Preceptor Recognition Day – an annual celebration the IWK Learning Team created specifically to recognize preceptorship in our health centre.
“Preceptoring is a way of life at the IWK. When you’re preceptoring, supervising or orienting new people, you’re contributing to the excellence the IWK is known for,” says Robinson. “This is your day to be celebrated.”
Check out the link below to meet some of our IWK preceptors.