A Journey from Nurse Clinician to Nurse Educator (Part II)

Afza.Malik GDA

Mentors and Partners 

A Journey from Nurse Clinician to Nurse Educator (Part II)

Setting Up a Partnership/Apprenticeship, Contract for Preceptor, Preceptors, Mentors, and Partners.

Setting Up a Partnership/Apprenticeship

    So how does one go about setting up a partnership and a cognitive apprenticeship? Critical aspects of setting up a successful partnership/apprenticeship include trust and mutual respect. Learners must trust that their role model (preceptor) is proficient in skill and in ability to impart knowledge. Expert educators/preceptors must trust that their apprentice is willing to work with them and learn from them while providing a safe environment.
     A safe environment will be provided by the preceptor who does not expect the student educator to supervise or evaluate nursing students in an unfamiliar setting or situation. For example, a student educator should not be expected to be solely responsible for providing feedback to nursing students who have been known to be defensive when given constructive criticism. 
    Mutual respect is essential in that both the partnership preceptor/role model and student educator should respect that each has gifts and talents that they bring to the partnership. Learning is not a one way street. Instructors can always learn from students whether they be nursing students or student educators. 
    Setting up a contract in advance where preceptor roles and student roles are well defined will help to ensure that both parties are cognizant of the expectations and will foster a climate of trust (A mechanism should be in place for renegotiating terms of the contract as changes in learner needs and preceptor abilities arise.

Contract for Preceptor

    The preceptor is expected to perform in the role of coach, facilitator, teacher, resource person, and evaluator. Responsibilities include: Meeting with the preceptee before the preceptorship to review objectives and planned activities and reevaluate as needed. Serving as role model, supervisor, and clinical expert of the preceptee. 
    Collaboratively planning assignments, activities, timelines, and projects with preceptee to meet learning objectives. Providing scaffolded support by promoting increased independence and self-direction on the part of the preceptee in relation to meeting learning objectives. Sharing stories of personal experience and knowledge with preceptee. 
    Providing a variety of opportunities for the preceptee to experience the real-life lived experience of a nursing educator. Providing constructive feedback to the preceptee about their progress and performance. 
    Informing the faculty advisor immediately of any problems/concerns arising during placement. Evaluating preceptee performance and progress toward meeting learning objectives. Participating in joint conferences between preceptee and faculty advisor as scheduled.
    It is essential that both apprentice and expert have mutual goals for the experience and a willingness to work together to achieve those goals. Setting the stage with a “How can I help you? How can you help me?" expectation will provide an opportunity for both preceptor and apprentice to gain from the experience. 
    For example, one graduate student worked with a diabetic nurse clinician who was responsible for educating and evaluating pregnant women with diabetes. This student designed her learning experience in such a way that she not only learned from her preceptor but also shared her knowledge with the preceptor, and gave something back to the affiliating facility. 
    The student, experienced in literacy and patient education, redesigned a patient diabetic education pamphlet to be more visually appealing and linguistically easier for all patients to read. In this way, both preceptor and student benefited from the experience. 
    If at all possible, apprentices should select their mentor/preceptor. If a student educator is assigned to a preceptor that she does not know, there exists the potential for a lack of congruence on goals/expectations or interaction style.

Preceptors, Mentors, and Partners

    Preceptors, mentors, and partners all differ but each serves a positive role in easing the transition from clinician to educator. A preceptor is a specialized tutor who gives practical training to the student. Use of preceptors to coach, role model, and evaluate in nursing education is becoming increasingly common. 
    Preceptors are used on both the graduate and the undergraduate levels. In addition, they have become popular in the practice setting where hospital nursing education departments have been pared down because of a lack of resources. The roles that a preceptor might be expected to assume include teacher, coach, facilitator, resource person, and evaluator. 

    Preceptors ease the transition from clinician to educator by providing one-on-one instruction. In this environment, the learner is able to ask questions of his preceptor without the distraction of other student educators. Preceptors provide the real-life experience of what it is like to be a nurse educator and how to deal with a variety of issues or problems that may arise. 

    For example, in one preceptor-student educator, the student educator described how much she learned from this one-on-one experience. She not only learned by watching the preceptor teach in a variety of environments; she also gained confidence through the positive comments, coaching, and opportunities for experience offered by her preceptor. 

    A mentor differs from a preceptor in that a mentor relationship may be more informal than a preceptorship and usually is in place for a longer period of time. Vance (1982) defines a mentor as “someone who serves as a career role model and who actively advises, guides, and promotes another's career and training.” Partnerships differ from mentor relationships in that partnerships are mutually beneficial to both partners. 

    Although preceptoring and mentoring are usually confined to career development, partnerships can be beneficial in both professional and personal domains. Partnerships can be short-term, outcome-oriented, or long-term, such as professional growth-oriented and relationship-oriented partnerships (Heinrich et al., 2005). 

    Outcome-oriented partnerships are those that focus on a specific, predetermined outcome; they have a finite ending or goal that defines and limits the terms of the partnership. One example of an outcome-oriented partnership is working with a colleague to develop a presentation. 

    Partnerships can be more openended , such as those formed in professional growth-oriented partnerships and in relationship-oriented partnerships. Professional growth oriented partnerships are evolving and ongoing in nature and include activities that foster personal professional growth. 

    These partnerships might include activities such as designing innovative clinical education strategies, expanding the role of academic advisor, enhancing skills and knowledge surrounding learning styles, and working effectively with students with diverse abilities. Relationship-oriented partnerships develop and exist for the sole purpose of building camaraderie. 

    These types of partnership activities might include interdisciplinary partnerships with other faculty, networking with clinical/community partners, and building friendships and support systems. Partnerships ease the transition from clinician to educator mainly by providing support and expertise to the novice educator.

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