Preceptor Spotlight: Francesco Dipierro


Francesco Dipierro
Preceptor for the School of Nurse Anesthesia


Francesco Dipierro and TCU students from the School of Nurse Anesthesia

Courtesy photo: Francesco Dipierro

What made you want to become a preceptor?

Before becoming a preceptor for the TCU School of Nurse Anesthesia, I had covered the role of preceptor at Parkland Health and Hospital System for the nursing students and residents entering the Medicine Intensive Care Unit. I’m a strong believer in education and knowledge, hence the attraction to the role of preceptor.


How did you get your start as a preceptor?

I began covering the role of preceptor for the TCU School of Nurse Anesthesia on a part-time basis in 2009, then full-time in 2010. Dr. Mike Sadler, my preceptor at the time, invited me to consider the position of preceptor, as he was considering leaving the clinical realm for a full-time role in academia. Though I was hesitant at first, Dr. Sadler gave me the confidence and guidance I needed to truly embrace the role of preceptor and provide the residents with the necessary tools and environment to succeed.


Did you have a preceptor that inspired you as a student?

Dr. Sadler represents a model of mentor I strive to emulate. I appreciated his dedication to education, approachable demeanor, passion for the profession of nurse anesthesia and the way he could simultaneously manage to be stern yet nurturing. Another mentor I must mention is Oscar Fimbres, a superb pediatric CRNA and mentor who taught me the importance of compassion, care and interpersonal relationships.


Why do you continue to serve as a preceptor?

I believe we all owe a debt of gratitude to those who took the time to provide us with teaching and guidance. I do believe mentoring residents is one of the ways nurse anesthetists can provide an invaluable service to the profession of nurse anesthesia and the public in general.  On a personal note, I truly appreciate and enjoy witnessing the astronomical development and growth the residents demonstrate over the sixteen-month residency. But make no mistake, this is not a one-way relationship. I continue to learn from the residents as much as they learn from me; they keep me current, informed and on my toes.


How do you promote professional growth and development with your students?

I’m a strong believer in the Socratic method. We have clinical conference before the work begins in the operating suite and promote a dialogue between residents to stimulate critical thinking and challenge each other. In addition, I do promote a good dose of independence, as I believe residents learn more about themselves and discover strength of character through making mistakes and obviating to them, instead of having someone that rescues them preemptively. Both these teaching methods are aimed at increasing and improving confidence and self-awareness.


How do you collaborate with students to meet learning objectives? 

Each resident is given tasks and targets to meet within the clinical practicum. These targets are clearly defined and realistically achievable. Through daily and weekly evaluations with each resident, I ensure that the development is consistent and the proficiency of execution of clinical and technical skills is being met. All residents develop at differing rates, so it is pivotal to keep an open line of communication and have constant evaluations and discussion.


What tasks and responsibilities are your students expected to take on?

In the end, the goal of clinical residency is to produce anesthesia providers ready to enter the workforce and actively contribute to anesthesia teams across the nation. In order to accomplish this goal, it is important that residents have the opportunity to train in all aspects of anesthesia care, so that the tasks residents are charged with are ultimately those that any anesthesia department would ask of their staff. There are some basic tasks that residents are expected to master rather quickly, such as performing an anesthesia machine checkout or learning the dosage and pharmacology of certain drugs, while more advanced tasks are introduced later in the residency.


What is your primary concern for students and how do you address that concern?

The ultimate goal of clinical training is to produce a safe anesthesia practitioner that is ready to enter the workforce; however, the rigors and demands of clinical training are such that fostering and nurturing the residents from a clinical standpoint and a personal standpoint becomes a major point of emphasis. As a clinical coordinator, you must learn to be their mentor, advocate, confidante, friend and disciplinarian – when necessary.


How does TCU support your preceptor role?

TCU provides phenomenal human and technical resources. The TCU faculty and leadership are also immediately available for consultation when needed. From a technical standpoint, the accessibility to the simulation lab is a great way for the residents to further hone anesthesia skills and routines. Lastly, TCU places a great emphasis on clinical coordinator development by ensuring continuous and open communication among coordinators, as well as providing growth opportunities through clinical coordinator meetings.


What do you feel is the most challenging and the most rewarding part of your role as a preceptor?

I find the generational gap with the residents to be a challenge I must continually work on. Clear communication and setting expectations are important in the clinical realm. I realize my communication techniques and demeanor must adapt to the incoming and younger generations; I emphasize more frequent feedback and informal group interaction, and I’ve learned to have fun while mentoring. Like I said earlier, mentoring is unquestionably a two-way street.

As far as the most rewarding aspect, it has to be witnessing the residents develop, grow and eventually become contributing members to the nurse anesthesia profession.


What is the best advice you could give to a young professional in your field?

I would say that a great mentor sets the example for the residents, so behave the way you expect the residents to. Have a positive attitude, be able to take criticism, always be willing to learn and have an unwavering work ethic. Mentoring is a privilege that allows shaping future practitioners to be their best.