So often, practicing health care providers gravitate to precepting—mentoring health profession learners through personal instruction and training—in silos. Though there may be colleagues from other professions around us in the patient care space, we can frequently take the path of least resistance in clinical teaching: to just focus on our own learners. There is no fault in that—that is who we as clini­cal preceptors are most beholden to in teaching. We are most familiar with the needs of our own profession’s learn­ers, knowing their trajectory through an educational model that we’ve been through ourselves. But when we teach in a silo, we create silo mentalities in those learners. To truly instill a collaborative team mindset, teaching should have a spirit of interprofessional education—to learn from, with, and about other professions’ learners. The preceptor must create and foster that collaborative learning environment, intentionally bringing together learners from other profes­sions. Because including other professions can be a foreign concept or create discomfort for the preceptor, educa­tional coordinators need to educate preceptors in effective interprofessional precepting activities and models.

In my own early experience as a clinical preceptor of pharmacy learners, there was no training or instruction about how to precept other professions. There were cer­tainly instances where I had the opportunity to interact and collaborate with learners from other professions, but there were no clear expectations of performance, nor opportunities to provide feedback to or about those learn­ers. I was left to my own devices and imagination about what a learner from another profession knew or expected, and that ultimately didn’t help that learner grow, leaving me uncertain about the value of the interaction. Many preceptors, even those with years of experience, may lack understanding of exactly what other professions do (or have misinformed or limited assumptions), or they may feel like interprofessional precepting adds too much time to teaching in sacrifice of clinical care. Experiences and perspectives like these perpetuate the habit of just stick­ing with educating learners from our own professions.

But there is much to gain by all parties from taking an interprofessional approach to precepting. The core ideals of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC)1 can be realized: We learn the values that another profes­sion can bring to the patient encounter and their unique perspectives. There is a visible demonstration of the roles each profession fills, and the critical responsibilities they take on that others may not. Everyone has an opportu­nity to practice high-quality interprofessional communica­tion, interpreting our different professional dialects into a common language. And our learners get the opportunity to engage in collaborative, patient-care teamwork to optimize the outcome for the patient. Additionally, many health professions schools now have expectations in their curricula or even their accreditation standards to include interprofessional education opportunities; this can and should extend to the practice spaces where learners are.

From field discussions with preceptors and clinical leaders, I have gained some insights into the importance of, and challenges with, interprofessional precepting. For example, learning role definitions and asking for expec­tations of the other learners is important, particularly regarding giving feedback directly to the learner or their original preceptor. Learning to talk with interprofessional learners directly about what high-quality teamwork means and what it looks like; talking about stereotypes and how to “bust” them. Teaching preceptors the importance of establishing “psychological safety” among interprofes­sional learners, and how to do it effectively, will create an environment where each profession feels comfortable and empowered to speak up and contribute their perspec­tive. The TeamSTEPPS program has numerous concepts, modules, and examples that serve as valuable resources for preceptors.2 An overriding concept to impart to pre­ceptors is to invest time in getting to know your interpro­fessional learners—their training, their scope of practice, even the culture of their education model—and to be open to the likelihood of bidirectional learning. The preceptor may learn as much from other professions’ learners as those learners learn about the preceptor.

Precepting learners from other professions is a valuable investment of time to ingrain future members of the health care team with appreciation for the value that other pro­fessions bring to the table. If a school aspires to optimize interprofessional education, a preceptor can work with that school to assist in training other preceptors in inter­professional teaching techniques. The preceptor, learners, and patients will all ultimately benefit from this approach to education.


The author has no conflicts of interest to declare.