The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2008 OPEN FORUM Abstracts


Patrick Evans1, Michael Anders2

Background: Clinical education is the cornerstone of respiratory care education. This study tested whether gender, race, age, or academic rank influenced respiratory care students' preferred clinical preceptor behaviors for clinical learning.

Methods: Respiratory care students in seven baccalaureate respiratory care programs were asked to participate in the study. A 34-item survey using an 11-point discrete visual analog scale elicited preceptor behaviors that positively influence the educational value of the clinical experience. Preferred preceptor behaviors were rank ordered. At an alpha = .01, paired t-tests were used to determine differences based on gender, race, age, and academic rank.

Results: Study participants were respiratory care students (N=137), including 70.8% females, 62% Caucasian, 66.4% 18 to 25 years of age, and 51.8% juniors. All invited students participated. Compared to the seniors, junior students perceived 17 preceptor behaviors as more important, including teaching behaviors, such as enthusiasm, delegation, feedback, questioning, and professional behaviors, such as role modeling, affirmation, and self-disclosure (p < .01). Minorities perceived one behavior, "Sets time aside to discuss topics unable to be discussed during busy time periods," as more important than Caucasians did (p < .01). There were no significant differences in responses based on gender or age. Junior students identified demonstrating a caring attitude towards patients as the most important preceptor behavior; seniors indicated teaching patient assessment skills was most important. Delegating appropriate responsibility for patient care was determined to be an important preceptor behavior to junior students and Caucasians, moderately important to seniors, but considered a low priority by minority students.

Conclusion: The results provide sufficient evidence to suggest that junior baccalaureate respiratory care students have different needs for preceptor interaction than seniors. The seniors' dependence on preceptors appears to decline except for teaching patient assessment skills. Clinical preceptors need to be aware of the behaviors that enhance learning for respiratory care students. Program faculty and department leaders should evaluate prospective preceptors in light of these behaviors and incorporate them into clinical preceptor training programs. An expanded study that includes associate degree students across the United States is needed.