Lynn Peckham, ’87 MSN, APRN, PPCNP-BC, embarked on a well-earned retirement earlier this month after a whopping 50 years in nursing and precepting more than 50 Yale School of Nursing (YSN) students across five different decades. Peckham started precepting just after graduation in the 1980s and kept welcoming Yalies until COVID-19 discontinued work with her final student in the spring of 2020.
Peckham witnessed the power of longevity up close from her mother, a licensed practical nurse who worked into her 80s and celebrated 101 trips around the sun.
“All I’ve known is get up and go to work,” Peckham said. “I’m still learning how to be retired.”
Peckham spent the majority of her career working in School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs), which serve as clinical settings within schools. The centers provide a broad range of medical care, as well as mental health care and other services. SBHCs often include multiple staff, such as a school nurse, an advanced practice nurse like Peckham, a collaborating pediatrician, an office manager, and a licensed clinical social worker.
YSN students assigned to Peckham as a preceptor learned a variety of skills beyond clinical education.
“I would have them watch and observe me, teach them tricks of the trade, and then send them to see patients on their own. They also did some classroom education on topics such as STDs, asthma, hand hygiene, COVID, and the flu. They planned schoolwide campaigns with me as well,” Peckham said.
“You have to work with many different agencies, such as the Board of Education, the Department of Public Health, plus the hospital,” Peckham said. “You need to learn to network with pediatricians in the area. For asthma patients, you’re all working together to keep them out of the emergency room. We hope people see us as collaborators versus competition, and we want to keep everybody happy. We work to form alliances in the community and earn the respect of the families.”
A Rock Star Preceptor
A preceptor is an experienced clinician who works with students in a clinical setting for a defined period of time, usually one semester or one year. Preceptors serve as professional role models for their students.
“Lynn is a rock star preceptor in so many ways,” said Associate Professor of Nursing and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Specialty Director Alison Moriarty Daley, PhD, APRN, PPCNP-BC, FAAN. “She is committed to providing an outstanding clinical practice experience for YSN students and has stepped up any time we needed her, even in a pinch. A clinical placement with Lynn in a School-Based Health Center taught students how to provide evidence-based primary care services for pediatric patients as well as how to work collaboratively with schools and families. I am so grateful for all her decades of contributions to the community, Yale School of Nursing, and the profession.”
One of Peckham’s former precepting students, Ranbir Mangat Bains ’01 MSN, PhD, APRN, CPNP was Peckham’s student in the fall of 1999 at Sheriden Middle School in New Haven, and it’s clear that Peckham left an impression. “Lynn is a trailblazer in the school-based health world in New Haven,” Bains said. “She opened up two school-based health centers that are still operational and thriving. She is a professional and went above and beyond for every family she served.”
Bains considered Peckham’s clinical site to be an ideal learning environment. “School-Based Health Centers allow NPs to practice to their full scope. That’s what I value, and I cherish—the relationships we have with the students and their families.”
Bains later penned Peckham’s winning nomination for the 2019 School Based Health Center Provider of the Year Award, an honor given by the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers. Peckham has also been honored with the Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing.
The Shadow of COVID-19
In the final year of her career, Peckham faced the global novel coronavirus pandemic. New Haven public schools closed for 10 months, and school staff were barred from entering their buildings for a while.
After Connecticut entered lockdown in March 2020, Peckham pivoted from in-person care to guiding nervous families via Yale’s COVID-19 hotline call center. She worked the phones all spring and summer, triaging calls, conducting telehealth visits, and ordering COVID-19 tests for pediatric patients.
Then SBHCs were allowed to open again, even though the classrooms remained empty. Peckham and her team kept up with services mandated by the state, such as physicals and immunizations for seventh graders, while maintaining the Board of Education’s safety standards of full personal protective equipment (PPE), cleanings between families, and seeing only one family at a time.
Advice for the Next Generation
When asked to share best practices for clinicians who want to become preceptors, Peckham focused on outlook.
“I do think it takes a special kind of personality to precept,” Peckham said. “You have to be patient and understanding—calm, I think—and willing to show them support, and help the [nursing] student understand that they can do it. They are all brilliant students, but many of them haven’t had a medical career. You need to teach them what to pay attention to.”
“The students have always been wonderful,” Peckham said. “Willing to learn and quick learners. They were ready to do whatever I asked them to do. If they were scared, they didn’t show it.”
Peckham also shared words of wisdom for the future nurses currently enrolled in YSN.
“Stay knowledgeable, stay current,” Peckham said. “Be open to new ideas and let people know when you don’t know something. Don’t pretend you know everything; you develop trust quicker that way with families.”
Peckham also encouraged students to build their networks, attend conferences, and gather new knowledge wherever they can.
How To Become a Preceptor
Have you ever considered serving as a preceptor? YSN depends on the generosity of our alumni to help educate, grow, and diversify the next generation of providers and to foster better health for all people. We cannot do it without your support!
For more information, contact Director of the Clinical Support Unit Tracy Chidsey at email@example.com.
Are You A Former Student?
To offer Peckham congratulations on her retirement or to send other well wishes, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your contribution will be considered for publication in the Spring 2021 issue of Yale Nursing Matters magazine.