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Precepting pays off for award winners

June 21, 2017

To be a preceptor or not to be a preceptor. That is the question for many pharmacists in Alberta.

For Tony Nickonchuk and Amanda Visscher, there was never a question.

Both are dedicated preceptors and have been for some time. Earlier this month, both were recognized for their efforts—Tony as Institutional Preceptor of the Year and Amanda as Community Preceptor of the Year.

“It was a no-brainer,” said Amanda of her decision to become a preceptor six years ago. “I had amazing preceptors myself so I knew that was something I wanted to do. And it’s so much fun for me and the pharmacy team. We have lucked out and had amazing interns. I know some pharmacists are on the fence about putting in the extra work. For me, it was always yes.”

Tony, a pharmacist at the Peace River Community Health Centre, agrees.

“It’s our responsibility,” he said. “None of us are forced to do it, but if all of us had the attitude that someone else would to it, there wouldn’t be any preceptors. It’s harder and easier than you think. Part of what makes precepting at our site great is we just do our job and we bring the student along with us. We throw them into our role and say, ‘This is what I would do in this situation, now go do it.’ We give them those opportunities.”

Both Tony and Amanda were thrilled that their students nominated them for the awards, and that they won. Amanda, from Edmonton, had been nominated before. But this is her first win, one year after her husband, Craig McAlpine, won the very same honour.

“I had always received the recognition buttons, then he was nominated once and got the award,” she laughed. “He got to rub that in my face for the year. As soon as I was notified that I had finally got it, I called him up. He did what I did to him: he hung up on me, which I expected. So now we’re even, although I have more nominations, so I’m a little bit ahead!”

For Amanda and Tony, precepting has been rewarding on many levels.

“It’s more of a learning experience for me,” Amanda said. “Even though the students are here and doing their rotations, it’s almost selfish for me because I get to learn so much more from them to stay current. These students are mini-pharmacists. They’re able to do everything that you throw at them.”

Tony enjoys teaching the students how to search for answers to complex problems. In the process, he learns, too.

“Precepting makes me a better pharmacist,” he said. “I have to be on my game and make the students realize I know what I’m doing. It pushes you to create the practice you want so the student sees what you want them to see. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and keep doing what you’re doing. Having students pushes me to do that much better.”

For information on how to become a preceptor—and maybe win an award like Tony and Amanda—visit