Understand the relationship dynamics between preceptor and student

While it goes without saying that hierarchy is inherent in student-preceptor relationships, it is worth noting how this hierarchy can affect a student’s ability to voice concerns, and that it in fact often does. In their study on conflict in student placements, Myrick, Phelan et al describe students often remaining silent in uncomfortable or conflictual situations that occur during their placements because of their relative lack of power and vulnerable location in relation to supervisors and other staff. This creates a situation, which places great responsibility on educators and preceptors to create an environment that both protects students and encourages them to have a voice; such an environment can only encourage open communication, which is especially essential in situations in which a student is struggling.

When we, as educators, become truly conscious of the oppressive aspects of our practice, aspects that reflect unchallenged acceptance of values, beliefs, norms and the practices defined for us by others, we can then begin to create a more democratically and cooperative teaching/learning experience. Perhaps then, conflictual situations that emerge can be received without judgment and resolved in a more authentic manner. [1]

In any placement, both the student and preceptor have rights and responsibilities:

Preceptor Rights & Responsibilities Student Rights & Responsibilities
Set expectations for performance Receive timely feedback
Maintain appropriate supervision Question evaluation reports
Access clinical performance Discuss details of evaluation and performance
Remove any unsafe student from clinical practice Appeal

[1] Myrick, F., Sawa, R., Phelan, A., Rogers, G., Barlow, C., & Hurlock, D. (2006). Conflict in the preceptorship or field experience: a rippling tide of silence. International Journal Of Nursing Education Scholarship, 3(1), 1-14. doi:10.2202/1548-923X.1202