Advice to a New Preceptee

A year ago I wrote a post called Letter to a New Preceptee, offering reassurance to a new paramedic. Today I am supplementing that with “Advice to a New Preceptee.”

Note: This letter is not directed to anyone in particular, but rather meant for preceptees in general.

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Dear Preceptee,

I have been precepting new paramedics for over ten years now. While I recognize that every preceptor has different standards, different pet peeves, and different personalities, here’s what you can do to get on my good side, which I try to show to everyone.

1. Don’t be late to work. Even better, be at work before I get there. I am usually always fifteen minutes early. I can understand an occasional car problem or alarm malfunction, but if you are habitually late, I will think less of you.

2. Check your gear out first thing. I used to trip up my preceptees by removing strategic items from the gear — stylets, Lasix, pedi defib pads — to see how thorough they were at checking or if they would lie to me when I asked them if they checked the spare kit. I don’t do that anymore. You are either checking your gear or you aren’t. If you are not, it will come to light, and you’ll learn your lesson the hard way. And don’t blame me if, after two weeks, you can’t find something in your gear or in the truck. It’s your job now to know where everything is.

3. Don’t spend the shift sleeping – either in the bunk room, on the couch, or in the back of the ambulance. Again I can understand if you are not feeling well or had a hard night, and you need some rest. A time or two I will let it slide, but don’t make it a habit.

4. Dress and groom yourself as a professional. I am not the picture of fashion. My shirts are a little rumpled, and sometimes in the early morning my shave is a little uneven, and when I stretch, sometimes my shirt tail gets pulled out, but I tuck it back in. Shower and use soap.

5. Treat your patients and fellow responders with respect.

6. Don’t gossip. Don’t trash talk.

7. Bring your books to work so you can look stuff up after your calls. It’s your choice – you can play video games after a call or you can read your books. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with video games, but if you are not doing great and you’re not asking specific questions about calls, and all you are doing is watching TV or playing video games, it starts to become a problem.

8. Ask specific questions that require some thought, not just general questions. If we have just done a patient with CHF, ask a question about CHF. Don’t expect me to teach you everything you weren’t paying attention to in paramedic class. Do expect me to help explain what you are not clear about.

9. And while I want you to take as much time as you need to write a full run form, don’t take an hour at the hospital every time. We have an obligation to write a timely (and accurate) run form and be available for the next call.

10. Help clean and restock if it needs to be done. Don’t punch out and split at the end of the shift if I am carrying bags of saline out of the supply room.

11. Don’t buy me coffee and doughnuts. (True I don’t drink coffee or eat doughnuts. I’m a Diet Coke and wheat bread man). Don’t buy me anything. I do recognize that many preceptors appreciate coffee and doughnuts, and I do not judge them for that. My initial preceptor wouldn’t let me buy him a coffee or a Coke for the length of our preceptorship. And I won’t take it from you.

Final thought: Preceptees worry about their IV skills, their scene handling abilities, their drug knowledge. These are things that you can learn and get better at, and I will work with you on. The things that will fail you are laziness, poor ethics, and disrespect for your patients and profession.

Maybe I am getting crotchety as I approach 50, but that’s where I stand.

9 Comments

  • Brick City Medic says:

    I wouldn’t call it crotchety. I would call it actually expecting your preceptee to actually do their job and take some initiative.

  • DavisEMT says:

    I love these posts. I am about 14 months in, and I still don’t feel comfortable. And no disrespect to my preceptors but beside the occasional protocol quizzing, I was left to my own devices, and 2 months after starting with this company I’m still finding out what is actually expected of a well-rounded medic.I just finished ‘Black Flies’ also. Good read. But wow, what a lot of powerful-negative imagery.I am glad you wrote the books that you did. I wish society thought our job was exciting and moving enough that we didn’t all have to be chalked up to nuts that are racisit, gambling, junkies.But I guess you don’t see “Chicken Soup for The EMT’s Soul” floating around out there. Ha.I guess we are just a different breed that can handle that generalization.But thanks again for your books and your posts.

  • rookie bebe says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I do 4 – 12 hours days this week third riding with my new job. I’m nervous, scared to death they’ll think I’m an idiot. It’s nice to know some seasoned medics still remember what it’s like. I’m terrible at IV’s and my plan is to stick my pt 3 times before I give up. I will take my time and not rush it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think your point is very valid, IV skills, scene control and those other things can typically be taught or learned over time. You can’t teach somebody the importance of being early, acting professional, etc in the same way. Being in the Academy for my new paramedic job now one thing our fire instructors have spent time on is the culture of the fire station. Most of the medics in my class come from transport companies and the lessons they are teaching are much more important then alot of other things in the long run.

  • Motivated Medic says:

    I love it when I get preceptors like you. Thank you for your blog, it is an awesome, informative, and inspirational. I hope to have a similar attitude as a seasoned medic. Blogs like this inspired me to create my own as I progress through medic school. Motivated Medic My Blog

  • Rogue Medic says:

    Great points about the way to treat a student. Not for hazing. Not for cheap labor. Not as a personal attendant.

  • Future Medic says:

    I find these posts to be very informative for someone entering the field, its not information you can really find very easily. Do you have any advice for someone just entering medic school? I am about to start in September and am very nervous, scared, and excited!Great post!–Future Medic

  • Palema says:

    Anonymous said, “You can’t teach somebody the importance of being early, acting professional, etc in the same way.”I disagree. I think job ethics as well as personal ethics can and must be taught. The first people you deal with in your life and in your work life can have a profound influence.

  • Anonymous says:

    Excellent thoughts about precepting. Not crotchety, just old school. All the people I precepted over my years as a medic, the ones who fell short fell short because of attitude not apptitude

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