Support for those who teach

Supporting clinical instructors

Introduction

This chapter is written for managers in healthcare who have partnered with health professions education programs to prepare the future healthcare workforce. Providing clinical training opportunities within your department is an excellent way to recruit new talent for your team; likewise, new practitioners also want to work at sites where they have had good clinical experiences. Carefully select the right individuals for clinical instructor positions within your department. Your clinical instructors must be able to juggle two equally important tasks - preparing students to become healthcare practitioners and providing excellent healthcare to patients. This chapter will review the traits of effective clinical instructors and ways to support these individuals as they mentor tomorrow’s healthcare professionals. Overall you will find that your department benefits tremendously by participating in clinical education. Your staff will stay current in their knowledge and skills, and filling open positions will become easier if you are able to retain the students who have trained in your department.

Consider teacher identity when selecting clinical instructors

When selecting clinical instructors for the department, managers should consider individuals who have a high aptitude for teaching. Ideally, knowing which clinical practitioners have a strong sense of teacher identity can be helpful in selecting the most motivated and committed individuals for educator roles (Molodysky et al., 2006). Whereas failure to properly select, train, and evaluate clinical instructors may result in ineffective or inadequate clinical training in your department (Weidner & Henning, 2004).

In general, clinical practitioners who volunteer to take on teaching roles possess the qualities necessary to be effective teachers (Beebe, 2003). Teaching comes somewhat naturally to these individuals, and they adapt to their instructional roles quite easily. On the other hand, clinical practitioners who are assigned to teaching positions because no one else in the department is willing to take on this work may need extra mentoring and support. Managers should note that some clinical staff members do not perceive teaching as worthy of their time and attention if it is not part of their formal job description.

Staff who are most senior in the department or who are most proficient in their technical skills may not be good educators. The best clinical instructors are typically practitioners who are able to easily communicate with novices in the profession (Henderson et al., 2006). Many healthcare practitioners are not interested in instructional roles because they are not confident in their ability to explain concepts, or they may be afraid that students will ask questions they cannot answer. Other practitioners believe they cannot be productive on the job and train students at the same time and, therefore, refrain from accepting teaching responsibilities.

From an educational standpoint it is probably best to avoid assigning students to work with staff members who do not like to teach. These employees may not foster a positive learning environment, and students may not get the full attention they deserve. In extreme cases, students may develop an unfavorable impression of the discipline after training with someone who does not value the clinical instructor role. Finding the right individuals to serve as clinical instructors within your department is the first step toward successfully preparing the next generation of healthcare professionals. A questionnaire that may be useful in identifying staff members within your department who would make excellent clinical instructors can be found in Appendix E.

 
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