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Preceptor Development: Precepting Millennial Pharmacy Students

22 Mar 2018 9:45 AM | MSHP Office (Administrator)

Lara Kerwin, PharmD and Roxane Took, PharmD
Millennial Assistant Professors of Pharmacy Practice at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy

The “411” on Millennials 

...as People:
Students of the “Millennial Generation” are born between the years of 1980-2000. This group also goes by the name of “Gen Y,” “Nexters,” and the “Me, Me, Me Generation.”1-3 Historic events that have occurred during and impacted the way they view the world include September 11th, 2001; legalization of gay marriage, and the election of the first African American president of the United States of America. Millennials have grown up in the age of technology. They have a reputation for being lazy, entitled narcissists who “live with their parents but will save us all!”1

...as Learners:
Millennial students are goal-oriented multi-taskers. They want context and to understand purpose behind the task at hand.3,4,14 They care more about collaborative, active learning in groups than studying. These learners may be needy for feedback and anticipate immediate responses from their instructors. Millennials appreciate scheduling flexibility as well as customization of learning experiences to their goals and interests.3-5 Having a strong predisposition toward praise for any work and that they do contributes to the generalization that Millennials have poor work ethic, lack critical thinking skills, and have a superficial awareness of self.6

Precepting Millennials with Intention Several effective approaches to training Millennial learners in the experiential setting have been described:

  • ASHP’s Four Roles of a Preceptor7,13: Instructing, Coaching, Modeling, and Facilitating in sequence over the course of a rotation experience facilitates Millennial learners in building clinical confidence and competence in a stepwise fashion. These four roles played by you, the preceptor, also create many opportunities to offer feedback, which helps Millennials thrive. 
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy integrating into Kitchner & King’s Reflective Judgment Model8:
  1. When a student begins a rotation “module” or starts a rotation year, they respond well to boundaries and clearly-communicated high expectations that seem individualized; this is best facilitated through a preceptor who is personally invested in the student’s development and serves as a role model.
  2. As students feel comfortable with basic clinical knowledge or patient care skills, it is appropriate to challenge their “black and white” understanding of knowledge to explore and reflect upon clinical “gray areas.” This removes the safety blanket of recall-based, study guide-driven rote memorization from what is acceptable and forces the student to consider alternatives and draw new conclusions.
  3. Now that the Millennial is reflecting, encourage learning from mistakes through constant hypothesizing and testing. They may be hesitant to engage in this phase due to fear of failure or disappointing you, the preceptor. However, it is in this stage that they refine problem-solving skills and participate in “real” learning.
  • Creative Inter-Change Model9: Authentic Interactions allow for the preceptor and Millennial student to begin the learning experience from a place of open communication of expectations and goals. Appreciative Understanding allows both parties to learn about and from one another. Through Creative Integrating, the Millennial receives praise for “what’s going well” and constructive feedback for improvement opportunities, again building their confidence and competence. When they are showing consistent proficiency toward learning objectives and outcomes, Millennial learners are ready to Expand Capacity and handle additional responsibility, which should be encouraged by the preceptor.

Table 1. Anticipated Challenges and Proposed Solutions for Precepting Millennials10-12,14


1. Stein J. Millennials: the me, me, me generation. Time. May 2013. http://time.com/247/millennials-the-me-me-me-generation/.

2. Gardner SF. Preparing for the nexters. Am J Pharm Educ. 2006;70(4):Article 87.

3. Boysen PG, Daste L, Northern T. Multigenerational challenges and the future of graduate medical education. Ochsner J. 2016;16(1):101-107.

4. Dilullo C, Mcgee P, Kriebel RM. Demystifying the millennial student: a reassessment in measures of character and engagement in professional education. Anat Sci Educ. 2011;4(July/August):214-226. doi:10.1002/ase.240.

5. Preceptor Newsletter. http://news.pharmacy.vcu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/3395/2014/01/Newsletter_Vol_10_Issue_1_Winter_Spr_2014.pdf. Published 2014.

6. Fjortoft N. The selfie generation and pharmacy education. Am J Pharm Educ. 2017;81(4):Article 61.

7. Weitzel KW, Walters EA, Taylor J. Teaching clinical problem solving: a preceptor’s guide. Am J Heal Pharm. 2012;69(18):1588-1599. doi:10.2146/ajhp110521.

8. Sylvia L, Barr J. What matters in a student-centered approach? In: Pharmacy Education: What Matters in Learning and Teaching. Sundbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2011:25-56.

9. Case Di Leonardi B, Gulanick M. Precepting and diversity: focus on cultural and generational differences. In: Precepting Graduate Students in the Clinical Setting. Chicago; 2008:83-99.

10. Nevin CR, Westfall AO, Rodriguez JM, et al. Gamification as a tool for enhancing graduate medical education. Postgrad Med J. 2014;90:685-693. doi:10.1136/postgradmedj-2013-132486.

11. Desy JR, Mph DAR, Wolanskyj AP. Milestones and millennials: a perfect pairing--competency-based medical education and the learning preferences of generation Y. Mayo Clin Proc. 2017;92(2):243-250. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2016.10.026.

12. Meister J, Willyerd K. Mentoring Millennials. Harv Bus Rev. 2010;(May).

13. Cuellar L, Ginsburg D. Preceptor’s Handbook for Pharmacists. 3rd ed. Bethesda: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; 2016.

14. Roberts DH, Newman LR, Schwartzstein RM. Twelve tips for facilitating millennials’ learning. Med Teach. 2012;34:274-278. doi:10.3109/0142159X.2011.613498.

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