Yale Nursing Honors Essential Partners: Preceptors

GEPN Preceptor of the Year Winner Peggy Sawyer (third from right), was cheered on at the ceremony by students she has precepted.
June 21, 2022

Yale School of Nursing (YSN) saluted preceptors in every specialty and the Graduate Entry Prespecialty in Nursing (GEPN) program at the 4th Annual Preceptor Appreciation Day and award ceremony on June 10.

The celebration honored the unique role of preceptors in nursing: these clinicians volunteer many hours to guide and shape the next generation of nurses in every specialty and across a wide continuum of clinical settings. The event welcomed new preceptors who jumped in during the global COVID-19 pandemic, experienced nurses who have shepherded students year after year for a decade or more, and everyone in between. 

Director of the Clinical Support Unit Tracy Chidsey pointed out that the amount of time spent precepting is irrelevant when compared to the impact. 

“Regardless of the amount of time you have precepted, each of you have impacted one or more students who will forever remember you as their teacher, supporter, counselor, mentor, and role model of what type of provider they will strive to be. For that, we are forever grateful for your dedication and commitment,” Chidsey said. 

Excerpted below and lightly edited for length and clarity are comments about all seven winners drawn from student nomination materials and other forms of feedback. And check out YSN on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter for exclusive social media content that shares why preceptors love working with YSN students and vice versa.

Nurse Midwifery/Women’s Health: Dr. Heather Brigance, DNP, APRN, CNM
Center for Women’s Health and Midwifery

Just a few weeks ago, a patient came in for her scheduled prenatal appointment with her husband. She had been experiencing some contractions, and when we came into the room, it was obvious that this patient was far along in labor. Heather gave me the look that I had gotten to know well – the look that said: “Go ahead Colleen, you’ve got this.” 

Although this was the first time that I had ever had a patient come into the clinic in labor, the confidence that Heather had in me allowed me to take a deep breath and use the skills she knew I had. I asked the patient the appropriate questions and checked to see how dilated she was. Together we made a plan, and I watched as Heather calmly called 9-1-1 to have the patient transferred over to the hospital. Heather remained calm and steady, which steadied everyone in the room. We safely transferred the patient and debriefed afterwards. 

This experience of having a laboring patient in the clinic setting was very new for me, but the support and care I felt as a student was my everyday experience with Heather.

Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: Cathy Milne, RN, MSN, APRN, CS, CWOCN
Connecticut Clinical Nursing Associates and Bristol Hospital

 To observe Cathy was a master class in patient care. Not only does she excel as a provider; her compassion and ability to connect with her patients is incredible. Her patients came in for uncomfortable, even painful procedures, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was the happiest medical office I’ve ever encountered. Her patients greeted her like an old friend they were happy to spend time with. 

As her student, she involved me in every wound care task from beginning to end, gradually increasing my responsibilities. She would ask me weekly what I wanted to accomplish and helped reinforce what I had learned the week before. 

Cathy is the best of what nursing can be, and I can only hope that I am able to someday precept to her ability. I especially admire her ability to walk into a patient’s room and no matter the wound care needs, personalities, or stage of the healing process, she meets them where they are. Good wound care, as with all healthcare, requires a healthy and respectful relationship between patient and provider, and Cathy has this in spades.

Psychiatric Mental Health: Christine Simpson, RN, MSN, APRN
Bridgeport Hospital in the Crisis ED

I have learned so much from Chris over the last year. She has taught me about the difference between a patient experiencing suicidal thoughts vs. plan vs. intent vs. action. This was something I felt so nervous about in the beginning, and I have become so much more confident having hard conversations with patients. She has helped me learn what truly equates to emergency and what can be treated with outpatient care. 

Chris is the most dedicated provider I know. She has continued to work for years after most people leave the field. She advocates for her patients and has so much empathy. I can’t think of one specific example of when Chris has been a role model, because she is a role model every single day that she comes to work. 

Chris has been precepting with YSN for many years. I have never met another provider who cares about her patients to truly dedicate their entire life to them. Many people would have chosen to retire decades earlier, and Chris chose to continue helping others. 

AGACNP: Deborah Stein, RN, ACNP-BC
Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center - Critical Care Medicine

Deb exemplifies compassion and critical thinking under very stressful conditions. We had a consult for a patient in respiratory distress who resisted intubation/ICU treatment. The patient and family were very resistant. She kept her calm, listened, and respected the patient’s and family’s wishes. She worked with the patient and family to make it possible for the patient to safely and comfortably breathe for the meantime. She collaborated with the patient’s primary oncologist to help clarify goals of care. She is an exceptional teacher, care provider, and advocate for cancer patients and their families. She is an amazing role model!

I think everything that Deb does in the clinical setting shows precision, attention to detail, and compassion. She is very well-respected by other NPs, nurses, the staff, leadership, nurses from other units, and physicians. She has taken roles in leadership and education. I want to become as amazing as her as I progress as a budding NP. Any student is lucky to have her as a preceptor, and it has been a privilege to be one of her students.

Family Nurse Practitioner: Doreen McGehee ‘86 MSN, APRN
Veterans Affairs – West Haven, Connecticut

Doreen was organized and enthusiastic. From the first day I arrived at clinical, she greeted me with a binder of material, and she had a list of various specialists that I would observe during my rotation. She is amazingly knowledgeable about wound and ostomy care and was very willing to share that knowledge and to answer questions. If questions came up that she did not know the answers to, she would consult other providers at the VA.

Doreen consistently went out of her way to educate patients, follow up and coordinate with their other providers, and give them the referrals they needed in way that seemed above and beyond what someone in a specialty clinic would be required to do.

I can’t say enough positive things about my experience working with Doreen. She is skilled, compassionate, and a wonderful example for students. She puts a lot of thought into her students’ clinical experience and has clear learning objectives for students.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Jolene Henion, RN, MSN, APRN
Rogers Park Middle School

While leading a session that was heavily mental health, Jolene stayed by my side and let me ask questions. Afterwards, she assured me that I asked all the right questions and more. She also shared how she personally likes to decompress after a heavy session or an emotionally charged day. 

Jolene embodies everything I want to be as a nurse practitioner. Whenever we had some down time, she would call down students to fill the time slots in order to do a risk assessment and to simply get to know them better. During these sessions, she not only was a role model to me, but to the students as she utilized the posters all over her office to educate and talk to the students about their health. 

Jolene went the extra mile to make every patient feel at home in her office, including a middle school student who was anxious about her appearance under her mask asked if she could have lunch in the clinic instead of the cafeteria. Recognizing how scared the student was, Jolene made a plan to build her confidence and help her to gradually have lunch with the other middle schoolers. 

Graduate Entry Prespeciality in Nursing (GEPN): Peggy Sawyer, APRN, MSN, MBA
Yale New Haven Health

Peggy provided such a thorough orientation of the site that I felt like I was a real employee. She took the time to thoroughly listen to each student’s concerns and wishes at the beginning of every shift and then made it her mission to check in with each of us multiple times (running around between three units constantly) to ensure we were safe and having valuable learning experiences. In the daily debrief, everyone was heard and supported completely. I cannot thank Peggy enough for creating this environment for us.

During one shift, all patients were told to go into their rooms, and I did not know what was happening. Within a minute of texting Peggy, she was on my floor, and we found that one of the staff members was having a medical emergency. Peggy modeled while explaining to me every step of how to take charge and ensure everyone’s safety. We informed the guards, brought EMS to the patient, and Peggy explained to the nurses what they needed to include in their debriefing of the patients. Witnessing her in action was incredible. 

Make a Difference and Become a YSN Preceptor

If you are interested in guiding the next generation of nurses and midwives as a YSN preceptor, please contact Tracy Chidsey, Director of the Clinical Support Unit. 

For more inspiration on how YSN preceptors play such a vital role, review “Preceptors Describe Joys of Teaching Next Generation of Nurses and Midwives” or read about Lynn Peckham, ’87 MSN, APRN, PPCNP-BC, who precepted across five decades.