Precepting 101: A guide for preceptors

Congratulations on your role as a pharmacy preceptor! Just as you may have had great preceptors who made an impact on your personal and professional development, you can make a lasting impact for future pharmacists.

While it may seem intimidating getting ready for a rotation with a learner, with a bit of preparation and organization you’ll be able to ensure a great learning experience for your learner, your pharmacy team, and yourself.

Check out the full guide for tips and ideas for new preceptors and helpful reminders for seasoned preceptors. Much of this material is applicable for a few types of learners, including both student pharmacists and pharmacy residents, but focuses on student pharmacist learners. For specific requirements to precept pharmacy residents, review the residency accreditation standard.

Download the full guide 

Step 1: Meet state requirements
  • Before you can begin precepting student pharmacists, you must make sure you meet all of your state’s requirements for preceptors. For example, some states require an additional license or certificate from the state board of pharmacy.
  • See the guide for tips on how and where to find your state’s requirements for preceptors.
Step 2: Establish yourself as a preceptor and rotation site
  • Schools and colleges of pharmacy have an office of experiential education (OEE), which is the go-to for newly certified preceptors who want to begin precepting and offer a rotation
  • Provide a schedule of availability for Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) and/or Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE) student learners—either via an online scheduling system or written request—including the number of students you can precept and for which rotations.
  • An OEE will often provide preceptors with access to their school’s pharmacy resources (e.g., drug information, literature servers, virtual training) and opportunities for live or virtual preceptor continuing education events.
Step 3: Develop a syllabus, calendar, and activities
  • Determine which type of rotation you will be offering.
  • Provide a syllabus for the rotation, even if you are not asked to provide one, in order to provide clear expectations and performance objectives.
    • The syllabus may contain different required elements by the institution. Examples of syllabi are provided in APhA's Getting Started as a Preceptor resource book.
  • Create a rotation calendar. It’s important to consider a few key items included in the full Preceptor 101 guide to ensure you and the learner have a successful rotation.
  • See the full Preceptor 101 guide for suggested items to include in a syllabus and for key dates to include on every rotation calendar.
Step 4: Start the rotation with an orientation on the first day
  • Review the syllabus and calendar together in order to clearly set expectations and answer questions.
  • Orient the student to the physical rotation site and electronic platforms.
  • Develop personal and professional goals.
  • If your practice site has specific protocols that need to be followed or institution-specific resources, review these during orientation as well.
Step 5: Conduct the rotation

Deliver feedback

  • Feedback should be consistently provided and may be delivered verbally or via written communication.
  • Two types of feedback that are important for a preceptor to provide
    • Formative feedback is delivered in the moment, such as after a learning activity is performed.
    • Summative feedback is provided at the midpoint and at the final evaluation related to overall performance.
  • See the guide for recommendations on how to deliver feedback

Manage multiple learners

  • If there are different levels of learners, it is important to set expectations accordingly in terms of workload, previous experience, etc.
    • For example, IPPE students should be assigned fewer patients than APPE students, who should in turn be assigned fewer patients than residents.
  • Consider implementing a layered learning model when precepting multiple levels of learners. Layered learning models provide a valuable hierarchy of teaching and learning.
  • See the full guide for tips and suggested practices as well as how to effectively incorporate layered learning in your rotation.

Manage challenging learners

  • While most students are invested in their own learning and development, and experiential rotations usually go well, there may be situations that are more challenging, especially for a new preceptor. It is important to mitigate these challenges, give students benefit of the doubt, and do everything possible to find ways to help the student succeed.
  • See the full guide for potential challenges and how to mitigate them.
Step 6: Complete the rotation
  • Once rotations are complete, it is important for future planning to check in with your students to learn firsthand what went well and what could be better in the future.
  • Ask student learners for their feedback by preparing questions in advance and modeling appropriate receipt of feedback during the rotation.
  • See the full guide for best practices for asking for feedback from students.
Step 7: Conduct regular preceptor development
  • As a new preceptor, you will quickly learn that you may serve in many roles simultaneously, from preceptor to coach, practitioner, provider, and/or faculty member. This is why it’s important to continuously develop yourself personally and professionally.
  • Create a plan for personal and preceptor development so that this is not pushed aside.
  • Complete APhA's Advanced Preceptor Training program to gain the knowledge, confidence, and skills needed to be a successful preceptor.

Letters of recommendation

  • Be prepared for your students to ask for work- or residency-related letters of recommendation, either now or in the future. Letters of recommendation come with a lot of responsibility, so be honest with your students regarding whether you have the time and are willing to provide a high-quality letter.
  • Retain notes and evaluations on students who completed rotations with you earlier in the year in case you are asked for a recommendation letter later in the year.
  • See the full guide for recommended materials to ask from the student and tips on writing letters of recommendation.