Birth Professionals

Working with Preceptors

MidwiferyEducationNo matter what type of midwifery training you pursue, you will work with preceptors.  Some programs require you to find your own preceptor — which can be nearly impossible in some regions. Other programs assign students to preceptors — which means you may have additional travel costs and spend more time away from family. Regardless of how your preceptor is assigned, how do you use this relationship to become the best midwife you can be?  Here are some ideas.

Know your learning goals

The things you need to learn as a new student are not the same things you need to learn as an advanced student.  Once you realize this, it may become easier to differentiate between what you need to learn now, and what can wait. Building a strong foundation will also allow you to become more independent as you advance.  Share your goals with your preceptor.  This allows her/him to identify experiences that will help you advance. This also helps you to recognize the progress you are making.

Be grateful for your preceptor’s time

I’ve heard some student midwives grumble that they should be payed because they “do all the work” for their preceptor. While this may be true near the end of your student career, this is very far from the truth for most of your student life. You may provide some assistance, but overall the work you do is not a replacement for the time it takes for your preceptor to teach you things, demonstrate things, and allow you to do things in your slow and clumsy student way.

Have you ever had a small child help you with a chore? Think about how much longer that chore took.  Think about how the unskilled child made a bigger mess than you would have mad, meaning there was more clean up.  Think about how proud the child was, and how oblivious the child was to the lack of “help” they were really giving.  The reality is that you didn’t need the child’s help — you allowed it.  The same is true of a preceptor — she doesn’t need your help to complete her job.  She is allowing it so that you can learn.  Keeping this in mind may help you to remain thankful for the opportunity you are being given.

 Learn Something

You may not want to practice in the same style as a preceptor, but that is OK.  Every preceptor has skills and experiences that can help you become a good midwife.  I recommend working with as many preceptors as possible to give you a wide variety of skills. I may not generally choose to use stirrups on a hospital bed, but I know how to position a woman well in that position for the times when I may need it.  I may prefer to be hands off the perineum, but I have seen several different methods for working with perineums which can help me quickly plan what to do when things don’t go as expected.  Take what your preceptor has to offer, and file it away for the few times you might choose to use it.


Not rocket science, just three simple things you can do to get the most out a preceptorship.  What other advice might you give student midwives?

Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)