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Preceptorship, 3rd installment

Teaching in the clinical arena comes with the benefit of immediately applying what is learned. It is said that students will remember 80% or more of the information they can immediately apply. This is probably why so many us of say that we learned far more during clinical rotations than we did in class. That was because we were learning while doing. Remember the old saying, "Watch One, Do One, Teach One?" This falls right in line with increased learning. When we watch, we soak in the information because we know that we will be doing the next one. Once we have successfully completed a task or procedure, we then teach it to someone else. Through this process, we tend to remember the details.

Too many times during clinical rotations, students observe but are not challenged to take the next step. And even if they do one, many do not have the opportunity to teach one. Always find an opportunity to let them teach. Let them describe a procedure to another student in the office. Let them explain the procedure to a patient. This will help them to etch it in their memory. The more senses they use, the more the information is stored for later recall.

Another way to increase recall is to have them take notes. They can also write up the procedure and present this to you for critique. When they know they have to describe it, they tend to pay attention to the small details.

The next item to consider is which patients are most appropriate for the student. The short answer is that most patients are appropriate. Yes, you may have an exceptionally difficult patient or a patient with multi-system problems. But this should not always exclude the student. Consider where they are knowledge-wise and assign them appropriately and work through the case with them. Everyone has to learn sometime so start with less complex patients and move forward as their knowledge increases. It's all a matter of direct supervision.

Another area where students learn is during downtime. Quiz them on cases they have observed. Critique their performance informally while having morning coffee. Send them with other members of your department or office to learn about other roles in the health care delivery chain. Take them to morning reports, to CMEs or to presentations you may be giving. Have them research the literature on a specific pathology or case. Anything you have them do that will relate to their final profession is time well spent. Just assure that they meet the objectives of the rotation.

All-in-all, you are a role model and mentor. They are looking to you to learn how to be a healthcare provider. Enjoy watching them improve and give them the opportunity to prove themselves. You are shaping a future colleague.

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