When the flame fizzles
Dear New Practitioner: Does the thought of precepting another learner leave you with stress or dread, rather than excitement? Are you feeling underwhelmed by your professional accomplishments despite your engagement in teaching? If yes, you may be experiencing preceptor burnout.
I reached out to clinical oncology pharmacists and New Practitioners Andrew Ruplin, PharmD, and Dane Fritzsche, PharmD, BCOP, for their thoughts on identifying preceptor burnout, how to prevent it, and advice for managing the “fizzle.” Their responses are summarized for brevity.
How would you define preceptor burnout?
- Andrew: “Feeling dissatisfied with the overall workload, leading to decreased professional interest or a dread to continue at a certain level of engagement as a preceptor. Other emerging signs may include anxiety, apathy toward the learner’s growth, shortened temper, negative mood, poor quality of sleep, and procrastination.”
What do you think are causes of preceptor burnout? When might burnout begin?
- Andrew: “The total amount of work in a condensed period … [including] administrative activities associated with preceptorship, in addition to patient care obligations, administrative expectations (such as meetings, charting, and documentation), extra-professional interests, and personal commitments (including childcare).”
- Dane: “Back-to-back learners without a break on service and additional projects. Because the quantity of work fluctuates over time, the onset of preceptor burnout may vary for each preceptor.”
- Andrew: “How a preceptor approaches work–life balance—leaving work at work, limiting hours worked per day, completing patient care on-site versus other professional activities at home—may also impact the onset. The many hats that a given pharmacist wears requires a high level of coordination, engagement, and oversight. Without formal or protected time to teach or complete evaluations, this may over time snowball into preceptor burnout.”
What are some strategies that you or colleagues have used to manage preceptor burnout?
- Andrew: “Speak up! Make an effort to let colleagues and managers/leaders know you are feeling burned out as a preceptor. They may be able to help off-load some of the workload as a preceptor.”
- Dane: “Ask more experienced mentors and colleagues about their experiences with burnout. If desired, they may be able to help you establish appropriate boundaries with committing to projects to avoid spreading yourself too thin.”
- Andrew: “Find ways to socialize with your pharmacist and interprofessional colleagues, and practice active relaxation at home.”
What are some methods to avoid preceptor burnout?
- Dane: “Share the work. Engage multiple preceptors on a given project and regularly communicate within the group.”
- Andrew: “Plan ahead. Have activities (including project time) and patients lined up for residents at the start of the rotation, with additional activities ad hoc. Bonus: residents can work on time management. Also, use locations away from your workspace for topic discussions to minimize interruptions and a change in scenery.”
- Dane: “Establish breaks between learners and engage a layered learning model.”
What might be some institution-wide factors that help manage/prevent preceptor burnout?
- Dane: “Developing and sharing resources for new preceptors. Another is standardization of expectations, including equitable distribution of learners across preceptors and service groups.”
- Andrew: “Flexible options for professional leave. Consistent scheduling for those who enjoy consistency/stability. And Administrative time to complete necessary duties beyond patient care.”
Keep in mind that preceptor burnout may arise in a number of ways. Whatever the etiology or initial presentation, know that you can equip yourself with a variety of tools to transform the fizzle into a bright flame.
Grace Baek, PharmD, is a clinical oncology pharmacist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle, WA. She loves exploring coffee shops across the country, spending quality time with family and friends, and hiking trails around Washington.