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Teaching teachers

Posted on March 5, 2019
Man in blue shirt, smiling, stands in hospital hallway

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine was founded on the idea that if health professionals are educated in the North, they will stay in the North.

In order to educate learners in the North, there is a need for clinical teachers in communities across the region.

The Rehabilitation Studies Program at NOSM has developed Preceptor 101 sessions to help increase the number of clinical teachers in the North. The sessions are designed for health professionals including audiologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech language pathologists who are interested in becoming preceptors, or have experience but want to improve their knowledge of best practices.

Brock Chisholm, a Clinical Learning Liaison with the Rehabilitation Studies Program at NOSM, developed the first version of the sessions with Kirsten Pavlich in 2001, before the establishment of  the School.

“We would have a clinical education workshop twice a year, but they were usually pretty advanced topics,” he says. “We created Preceptor 101 based on the idea that we would consolidate all of that into a shorter session with just the new or need-to-know information.”

Over the years, the sessions have evolved from a full day in one location, to smaller, half-day sessions in communities across the province.

“Considering our geography, it’s easier for health professionals to attend education that has come to them, than to take multiple days to travel,” says Grace King, a Clinical Learning Liaison with NOSM and co-host of the Northeast sessions. “It makes it far more accessible, not just in terms of convenience, but also in terms of being able to take that time away from direct patient care.”

In the fall of last year, Chisholm and King, along with Regan Buldoc and Cindy Davis-Maille, hosted six sessions in North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Kenora and Sioux Lookout.

Chisholm says clinical education opportunities, including the Preceptor 101 sessions, play a crucial role in the recruitment of learners in the North.

“The more expert preceptors we have, the more clinical placements we’ll be able to offer, and the more clinical placements, the more likely we are to recruit learners who have an interest in coming to the region,” he says.

He says the Preceptor 101 sessions have also played a crucial role in the retention of health professionals practising in these communities.

“Health-care providers in the North are geographically and professionally isolated, so attending a course like this allows them to make connections with other people, and feel that they’re less isolated and more involved in professional learning,” he says. “Teaching is also one of the best ways to maintain your skills, so having opportunities to stay current and active and involved is fundamental for clinicians.”

Davis-Maille says the sessions are a testament to the fact that there is a renewed excitement about learning and practising in the North.

“There are always lots of students interested in coming, and there are so many excellent health professionals who want to teach them and share their knowledge,” she says.