Being an Effective Preceptor

A review of selected literature has revealed that the following are characteristics of effective clinical teachers:


  • Possesses and demonstrates broad knowledge
  • Explains the basis for actions and decisions
  • Answers learner questions clearly and precisely
  • Open to conflicting ideas and opinions
  • Connects information to broader concepts
  • Communicates clear goals and expectation
  • Captures learners attention
  • Makes learning fun

Careful Analysis of the Learner

  • Accurately assesses learner’s knowledge attitudes and skills
  • Uses direct observation of the learner
  • Provides effective feedback
  • Performs fair and thoughtful evaluations

Skill in Practice and Teaching

  • Provides effective role modeling
  • Demonstrates skillful interactions with patients
  • Presents information with organization and clarity
  • Generates interest in the subject matter
  • Organizes and controls the learning experience
  • Balances clinical and teaching responsibilities
  • Gives appropriate responsibility to the learner

Motivates the Learner

  • Emphasizes problem solving
  • Translates specific cases into general principles
  • Promotes active involvement of the learner
  • Demonstrates enjoyment and enthusiasm for patient care and teaching
  • Develops a supportive relationship with the learner.

One-Minute Preceptor

Get a commitment

  • “What do you think is going on?”
  • Provide assessment of learner’s knowledge/skill
  • Teach interpretation of data

Probe for supporting evidence

  • “What led you to this conclusion?”
  • Reveals learner’s thought process and identifies knowledge gaps

Teach general rules

  • “When you see this, always consider…”
  • Offer “pearls” which can be easily remembered

Reinforce what was done well

  • Offer positive reinforcement
  • “You did a nice job with…”

 Correct errors

  • “Next time, try or consider…”
  • Comment on omissions and misunderstandings to correct errors in judgment or action

Five-Step Method for Teaching Clinical Skills

From A Simple Five-Step Method for Teaching Clinical Skills (Family Medicine 2001, 33:577-8), John H. George, PhD and Frank X. Doto, MS, suggest taking the following steps:

  1. Provide an overview of the need for the skill and how it is used in patient care.
  2. Demonstrate exactly how the skill is performed without commentary.
  3. Repeat the procedure, but describe each step.
  4. Have student “talk through the skill” by detailing each step.
  5. Observe and provide feedback to the student as he performs the skill.