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Caring for Future Generations

Preceptorships a unique opportunity to shape future health care providers, ensure great care for generations to come

April 18, 2016

Here, at Drexel, hands-on learning is paramount, and for budding health care professionals and practitioners, preceptorships are an important compliment to the material acquired in the classroom. For students, the experience – which is a degree requirement -- marks a pivotal professional milestone and an opportunity to develop a mentorship with a clinician. Perhaps less apparent are the benefits to professionals who become preceptors.

In response to a national need for more professionals to take on the role of preceptors, Victoria L. Wilson MSN ‘11, clinical nurse practitioner in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), shared her perspective on why she chose to assume the important responsibility of shaping the next generation of nurse practitioners, with help from Mary Dromgoole ’16, the student who is currently learning alongside her.

Wilson became a preceptor after one year of practice – as soon as she was able. She started working at the Helen O. Dickens Center for Women in 2011 and was precepting by 2013. “It’s part of my professional practice not just to care for patients, but to help shape the care for patients to come – nationwide, worldwide – it’s really my responsibility that the students get the best experience possible and learn the pearls of wisdom of the profession,” said Wilson. “As nurses we are born teachers, and what better way than to teach someone who is going to be your colleague in the future.”

Dromgoole said the process of finding a preceptor was extraordinarily difficult, especially given her southern New England location. “Aside from the seemingly normal nationwide shortage of preceptors, the area where I live is very saturated with nurse practitioners and students who needed placement in women’s health. Vicky (Wilson) has really come to my rescue.” Dromgoole commutes to Philadelphia two days per week, every other week, from Rhode Island for the opportunity. “It’s 110% worth the commute,” she added.

Wilson does not take Dromgoole’s time for granted – she’s happy to have such a dedicated student. “It’s wonderful to have someone who is always prepared and can assist me with patient care,” she said. “Mary can obtain a history, chief complaint and start the physical assessment from head to waist. We complete the GYN assessment together, after which, Mary tells me her differential diagnosis and orders the appropriate studies and treatments.”

The relationship between the two is mutually beneficial. Dromgoole said, “A preceptor, especially one like Victoria, is helping me to learn to form diagnoses and plans for patients which you can learn in the classroom, but it’s a totally different experience to learn to do it in your mind, on the fly, with pace. It’s been especially unique and delightful having a Drexel alum who is familiar with this program and the challenges it does (and should) present. In short, she’s been an educator, mentor, role model and friend to me. I simply couldn’t be more grateful.”

To those considering getting involved, but hesitant to make the commitment, Wilson persuasively said, “Think of the moment when you were about to do your clinical rotation and how eager you were to learn. Think of how you were so desperate for someone to accept you to take under their wing. Think about how much you learned from your preceptor and how they shaped you. Think about how proud you were as you went along in the process and started becoming more confident, and even though your preceptor was right there, you were doing the assessment, forming the diagnosis, ordering the tests. You should offer that opportunity to someone else, because someone did it for you.” She added, “You can’t forget where you came from, no matter how far you get. We’re all students at one point. It’s our professional responsibility and obligation, in the most positive way, to assist future NPs of the world.”

Echoing the sentiment and helping to smooth the road to finding these opportunities for her fellow classmates, Dromgoole said, “It’s more than just what you’re asked to do on paper. A preceptor is going to be someone really important in another person’s life. They’re going to be someone almost super human in a future colleague’s life.”

Students in the Nurse Practitioner Program are required to have four preceptorships over the course of one calendar year. Preceptors are needed for several other programs within the College of Nursing and Health Professions, including the Physician Assistant Program. If you are interested in learning more, please contact