February is the time of year when thoughts turn to love. Recently whilst perusing the candy and card aisles, the thought occurred to me that love comes in many forms. I love my job. I love helping patients. And I love helping students who will help patients in the future! 

However, it is widely agreed in our profession that there is a lack of formalized preceptor training; leaving preceptors ill-prepared for this important role. This gap in training is the root cause of inconsistencies in the quality of education provided to students. 

Consider the number of roles receptors need to know how to fill as described by Dr. Coverstone et al, (2016).

“In their role as coaches, preceptors motivate students. They ask powerful questions that are short, simple, and open-ended. Preceptors affirm and acknowledge positive behaviors, and help students identify gaps between what they know and what they need to know.

Preceptors are also teachers. They share knowledge and expertise, and manage learning opportunities. They engage students in dialogue, offer explanations, and answer questions. 

Preceptors are highly influential role models, who demonstrate what it means to be a professional. Students absorb and emulate the way a preceptor interacts with patients and their families, colleagues, support staff, and other health-care providers. 

A good preceptor is also a facilitator. Preceptors connect students with opportunities to learn inside and outside of the clinic. They provide invaluable exposure to the business side of how a practice operates.

Preceptors are evaluators who measure performance by assessing a student’s application of knowledge and skills in the clinical setting. 

Preceptors are gatekeepers. They are often the last teachers a student has before graduation, and are key in determining whether a student is prepared for entry into the profession, and demonstrate an interest in the student’s long-term professional development and success.”

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I was woefully unprepared to take on such an important job without adequate education. So, my colleagues and I asked ourselves, “What’s the best way to bridge the gap in education for preceptors?” Enter Certificate Holder-Audiology Preceptor (CH-AP)! This article is my attempt to share with you the positive impact this training has had on our practice, and ultimately, the students placed with us. 

Background

More than 800 audiologists from across the nation participated in ABA’s 2012 Assessment-Based Training Certificate Survey. Findings from the survey ranked improved access to preceptor training as a top priority for professional development. Based on survey results, the ABA Board of Directors approved the development of a certificate program. The CH-AP course was launched in May 2016, and consists of four modules. There were 267 CH-AP certificate holders as of November 1, 2017.

Present

My colleagues and I took the course soon after its release. Even after completing only the first module, I began to print out tool materials to implement in clinic the very next day! 

Our practice attracts applicants from a variety of AuD programs both in and out of the state. As a result, we have found that the universities’ evaluation standards, expectations, and the student’s fundamental knowledge and preparation are different for each extern. The CH-AP training helped us realize that ultimately, we (the preceptors) were in charge of structuring the experience for our students. This transition to a standardized goal-setting and assessment schedule made our lives easier, as we learned to actively engage with the University’s extern coordinators in order to align our expectations for each student. 

Here’s what my fellow preceptors had to say about the CH-AP.

 “The CH-AP helped me understand how to cater to each student’s individual learning style. I also understand better how to help them set appropriate goals and the importance of routinely checking on their progress.” Nicole Krueger, AuD, CH-AP

 “As preceptors, we often struggle with how to adjust our teaching styles to accommodate a student’s learning style. The CH-AP gave me a deeper understanding of how to identify a student’s learning style and to use that information in a meaningful way to help them achieve their goals.” Katie Kendhammer, AuD, CH-AP.

 “I completed my externship three years ago, at a time when there were no training or certification courses available to prepare a preceptor. I was fortunate to be hired after graduating, and am now a colleague to my then-preceptors. I thought our program was good, but the changes to it after all of us became certified in the CH-AP program made it even better. We are more standardized in our goal-setting and in holding the students accountable toward setting realistic, relevant, and achievable goals. My colleagues and I are more mindful of adjusting our teaching methods to compliment the student’s learning styles. Most importantly, we now use evidence-based tools, such as questionnaires and assessments, to monitor progress and our performance as preceptors. The CH-AP is about helping preceptors function at their best so that the next generation can perform at their best.” Colleen Ireland, AuD, CH-AP

Whether you are a student looking for a placement that will help launch your career, or an audiologist looking to boost your skills and enhance your program, the CH-AP is a credential you’ll love!