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Mentor Magic: Unleashing the power of future docs

By Brandon Ng, Resident

Hello to all the incredible family physicians out there! I’m currently navigating the exciting and challenging world of residency. As a learner, I’m experiencing firsthand how a great mentor can make all the difference. In this article, I want to share some insights into what transforms a good preceptor into a great one, from the perspective of someone on the receiving end of this crucial guidance. Let’s unravel the mentor magic that shapes the future of family medicine and discover how you, as seasoned physicians, can amplify your impact on us, the next wave of doctors.

Starting the Day Right: Establishing a Teaching Environment and Setting Expectations

The teaching environment you create as a preceptor sets the tone for the entire learning experience. It is where theory meets practice, and where students can apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios. A great teaching environment is one that is patient-centred, respects the rights of patients, and uses each interaction as a teaching moment. Planning and structuring your sessions with clear objectives and timeframes ensure that students not only learn effectively but also understand the importance of efficiency and empathy in patient care.

  • Tailor Patient Encounters: Plan which patients to include in the student’s schedule based on their educational needs and what they are currently learning.
  • Preamble and Review: At the start of each day, go through the day’s schedule with your students. Discuss the patients they will encounter, providing relevant background and key concepts. This prepares students for what to expect and helps them focus on specific learning objectives during each patient encounter.
  • Set Clear Expectations: Early and frequent communication of your goals and expectations to students and staff is crucial. Encourage student self-assessment and reflection with questions like, “What did you learn today?”

Integrating Clinical Practice with Teaching

A hallmark of an effective preceptor is the ability to seamlessly integrate teaching into the daily clinical routine. This includes involving students in patient care, demonstrating practical skills, and discussing real-life cases. It’s about showing rather than just telling, allowing students to experience the realities of family medicine firsthand.

  • Use Appropriate Teaching Strategies: Apply models like SNAPPS in outpatient settings for brief, structured presentations and active learner involvement.
  • Provide Continuous Feedback: Regular, direct feedback based on observation is essential. Make sure to give specific and positive feedback to reinforce what was well done by the learner.
  • Foster Decision-Making: Gradually increase responsibilities, encouraging students to form their clinical judgments and navigate complex scenarios independently.
  • Promote Self-Directed Learning: Encourage students to seek answers and explore topics independently, fostering a culture of lifelong learning and critical inquiry.
  • Debrief and Incorporate Key Teaching Moments: After each patient interaction and at the end of the day, take time to debrief. Use these moments to discuss what transpired, focusing on developing students’ competencies, particularly in communication skills. These debrief sessions are invaluable for reinforcing learning, addressing questions, and highlighting key teaching points.
  • Encourage Peer Teaching: In situations where you have multiple learners, such as a medical student and a resident in the same clinic, foster an environment of peer teaching. Encourage them to share knowledge and teach each other. This method not only strengthens their understanding of the subject matter but also develops their communication and teaching skills.

Professionalism and Collegiality

Preceptors not only teach medical knowledge and skills but also model professionalism and collegiality. They demonstrate how to interact with patients, colleagues, and other healthcare professionals, highlighting the importance of ethics, communication, and teamwork in medical practice.

  • Model Professional Behavior: Demonstrate ethical conduct, effective communication, and teamwork in your interactions with patients and staff.
  • Foster a Collaborative Environment: Encourage students to value and contribute to team discussions and patient care, enhancing their understanding of collaborative practice in healthcare.
  • Receiving Learner Feedback: Express your interest in and actively encourage feedback from your learners in determining areas of improvement for your own teaching style.


And that wraps up our deep dive into the art of being a top-notch preceptor. Think of it as a mix of science and a bit of magic – you’re not just teaching medicine, but also inspiring the next generation of doctors. Sure, it’s a road with its bumps and turns, but it’s also filled with moments of real impact. Each day presents a new chance to spark a breakthrough or guide a future doc through a tough case. So, let’s keep this mentorship journey interesting, engaging, and always forward-thinking. Here’s to all the mentors out there – keep rocking it in your crucial role, shaping the future of medicine one learner at a time.

Explore Mentor Match at the ACFP Networks

Mentor Match is a unique, self-matching service allows mentees and mentors to  connect, share common experiences, and tap into the expertise of your peers on a one-to-one basis. Join our safe and secure platform today to utilize this innovative tool. 

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