Respiratory therapy students cannot complete their educational programs without doing clinical rotations in hospitals and other health care facilities in their communities. And the only way that can happen is if therapists working in those facilities agree to serve as clinical preceptors for those students.
Amanda Bashista, RRT, and Andrew Klein, MS, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, were two of 20 clinical preceptors from around the country named a Recognized Clinical Preceptor for 2020 by the AARC Education Section. They explain what it means to take on this job and how they believe it has helped to boost their careers.
A love for teaching
“I have done clinical precepting for about eight years total,” said Bashista, an RT at the Boise VA Medical Center in Boise, ID. “I have always had a love for teaching students and patients. I feel that the education portion of our jobs is the most satisfying.”
Klein has been precepting students for about 15 years now and says it’s in the job description for all therapists at his hospital, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL. “There are no financial or workload incentives to be a preceptor at my facility as I know there are at some other facilities, but we emphasize the importance of doing it to our staff, frequently right from the start, and most do it because they want to,” he said.
Since Rush University has an MS program in RT, they work with students there and they also precept students from Malcolm X College in Chicago. They have contracts with schools from around the country too, and have taken on students from Texas, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa over the past few years.
“We may have as many as 6-8 students here at any one time, but never more than one per preceptor,” Klein said. “They rotate through general floor care, ICU bedside care, diagnostics, and neo/peds, and round with the ICU staff and the pulmonary team.”
Bashista works with students from her alma mater, Boise State University, where she also serves as an adjunct faculty member. Depending on the area being covered at the time, she generally has two to four students following her during each shift. Making sure these students get what they need to succeed as RTs when they graduate takes a little time and effort, but she says it’s all worth it.
“The biggest challenges for me are preparation for them to begin at the hospital and not giving them too much information at one time,” Bashista said. “The biggest reward for me is when the students make the connection between the classroom and the clinical setting while learning assessment skills, therapies, and indications for therapies, as well as disease states.”
Klein says it can be challenging to stay caught up with his regular workload with a student in tow, but he loves being able to put a difficult concept together for the students he works with and seeing their confidence in their abilities grow.
“From there, the more in depth and detailed questions and conversations start to happen and then it becomes about outcomes and not completing tasks, and that is how I separate a therapist from a technician,” he said. “A technician can operate the equipment and complete the tasks, but it takes a therapist to critically think at that next level that can have a real impact on outcomes and length of stay.”
How has clinical precepting impacted their careers? For Bashista, the biggest boost has come in the form of increased job satisfaction. “I feel like I have the best of all the RT worlds,” she said. “It has kept me involved in all aspects of care for my patients as well as challenged me as a therapist.”
Klein says working as a preceptor has made him a better RT.
“I think overall, teaching something to someone can give you a better understanding of the concept, and demonstrating practices makes you more aware of ensuring you are doing them correctly,” he said.
Receiving clinical preceptor recognition from the AARC has been icing on the cake.
“It is something I am really proud of, it has enhanced my resume, and it is something I always mention in my bio or when I am asked about my accomplishments,” he said.
Bashista says the clinical preceptor role isn’t for everyone, but if you like to take the time to explain things to other RTs, would find joy in helping students gain confidence in their clinical abilities, and can convey a positive attitude about your job, then it might be right for you.
“I have seen some preceptors in my career that are put in that role out of necessity or to get more money, but weren’t really a great fit for the role, and the students suffered because of that,” he said. However, RTs who have the right skills and character traits — and go into the role for the right reasons —reap substantial benefits.
“I think it is rewarding and challenging in a really great way, and can make you a better RT by enhancing some of your positive attributes and giving you confidence in teaching and communicating concepts, which will be valuable in other aspects of your career,” he said.
In these tough days of the pandemic, when morale is down in many places, playing a key role in educating the next generation of RTs can be a bright spot in your professional life as well. “It has given me a positive change of focus on my daily case load and the end goal for the day,” Bashista said.
If you are an RT manager or educator who works with RT departments to place students, consider taking advantage of our Clinical PEP Course. The course includes everything you need to get your clinical preceptors ready for the job.