In the life of Susan Clapp, CNM, precepting is a gift that is both given and received. Susan was working in Labor & Delivery after receiving her LPN in 1992. At the time, one of her instructors who was a nurse-midwife got Susan very interested in the profession, but life took over. Between a husband and two babies, Susan’s dream of being a midwife sat in the wings until another midwife started working on her floor.
Susan enrolled in Frontier Nursing University (FNU) in Class 81 and received her CNM in 2012. During her time as a student, she was the recipient of mentoring by three different preceptors.
“I was so blessed. They were fantastic and they were lovely,” Susan says of her preceptors.
Now, as a full-scope nurse-midwife for the Department of Defense at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Ft. Hood, TX, Susan gets to pay that gift forward.
As many nurses know, precepting is not an easy task. Many students are leaders in a medical setting, and being a novice under the direction of a preceptor can prove a difficult transition for both parties. It can also be hard for students to find preceptors, and when they do, the hospital may not accept a preceptee or give first choice to medical residents.
Preceptors also face a challenge, because it adds so much work to their already-full plate of patients. A good preceptor expends extra hours for teaching and demonstrations while precepting, which can be draining and stressful.
Despite the difficulties that come with precepting, Susan estimates she has precepted around 20 students since her graduation from Frontier six years ago. Her team of nurse-midwives strives to constantly have a preceptee in rotation, so that the students can benefit from being in their practice.
One of her recent preceptees had a triumphant moment during a complicated, emergency case. Though Susan could tell she was nervous, she let her preceptee take the lead – and was ecstatic with how she took control of the situation.
“She did so good and it made me incredibly proud. We got out of the room and I was squealing like a teenager,” says Susan.
Moments like these are what Susan lives for – and the reason she continues precepting.
“I think it’s important because you need to give back to your community,” she says. “You need to grow the nurse practitioner and the provider profession. You’ve got to give back so that those students can grow. If you don’t do it, then nobody is going to do it.”
Susan doesn’t stop at precepting in her mission to give back to the midwifery community. She was President of the FNU Alumni Association Advisory Council president for 5 years, and now serves on the council as the Development Committee Chair. She also participates in FNU’s SAGE Mentoring Network and Wide Neighborhoods Ambassador Program. Frontier clearly takes a special place in Susan’s life.
“I went [to Frontier] and I found this whole, big huge community,” Susan says. “You have to find your people; I went there and found a huge community.”
Of the 20-or-so students that Susan has precepted, the cycle is coming full circle for a few of them as they are beginning to precept others. It’s a proud moment for Susan. But she also reminds the ones that haven’t started precepting that they don’t have to know everything.
“Ninety percent of your job is caring,” she says.
And for anyone doubting their qualifications as a preceptor, Susan has an answer:
“At first you feel so unworthy. You think about your preceptor as this huge mentor, they’re all-knowing, they’re like superheroes. And you think to yourself, ‘I’m not that person.’ But you are that person. You just have to step out there and do it.”