Precepting at the time of a natural disaster
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BACKGROUND: Natural disasters strike communities that have varied degrees of preparedness, both physical and psychological. Rural communities may be particularly vulnerable as they often do not have the infrastructure or resources to prepare in advance. The psychological impact of a natural disaster is amplified in learners who may be temporary members of the community and therefore cannot draw on personal support during the crisis. They may turn to their clinical preceptors for guidance. CONTEXT: The Slave Lake fire (population 6782) in May 2011 and the High River flood (population 12 920) in June 2013 are examples of natural disasters that have occurred in rural Alberta, Canada. At the time of these critical incidents, three medical students and one family medicine resident from the two provincial medical schools were participating in rotations in these communities. INNOVATION: Although disasters occur rarely, there is a need for guidelines for preceptors from the learner perspective. Accordingly, using a modified Delphi approach, we captured the experiences of learners that were then refined into two themes, each containing three recommendations: considerations for action during a natural disaster and considerations for action after the acute crisis has passed. Although disasters occur rarely, there is a need for guidelines for preceptors from the learner perspective IMPLICATIONS: Our recommendations provide suggestions for practical solutions that build on the usual expectations of mentors and may benefit the student-teacher relationship at the time of a disaster and beyond. They are meant to initiate discussion regarding further study aimed towards creating recommendations for preceptor response that may cross disciplines.
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