Preceptor Preparation Online Course - Advanced

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Essential Competencies of Preceptors: A Focus on Working with APRN Students

Module 6: Communication and Conflict Resolution

Psychological Safety

As discussed in Module 3, psychological safety is the perception that an uncertain and changing environment is safe for interpersonal risk-taking (Edmondson et al., 2014). In the context of clinical learning, it means that students perceive the learning environment to be safe to take on challenges and be held to high standards without fear of humiliation, intimidation, or belittlement (Rudolph et al., 2014). The preceptor is integral to creating a psychologically safe learning environment where questions are valued, mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning, and high standards are held within a supportive and helpful atmosphere.

Establishing a psychologically safe learning environment begins on the first interaction between preceptor and student. For strategies that help establish psychological safety at the onset of the preceptor-student relationship, please revisit Module 3.

Establishing and maintaining psychological safety for a reflective feedback conversation requires intentional and specific moves by the preceptor that communicate to the student that the preceptor believes he or she is intelligent, capable, wanting to do their best, and wanting to improve. Because the preceptor holds that belief of the student, mistakes are viewed as puzzles to be solved rather than crimes to be punished, transparency in thinking and perspectives are valued, and vulnerability is supported rather than exploited.

Components of a Psychologically Safe Container

The below figure describes five components of creating a safe container that can be utilized by a preceptor when sharing feedback.

When thinking about psychological safety, it is important to remember that it is experienced by the student, which means it only exists if they perceive it the environment to be safe. In short, students cannot be told they are in a safe place for learning, they have to feel it.

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