dietitian mentor leadershipApril is National Preceptor Month in my professional field—my grassy field of nutrition and dietetics. I love mentoring students and interns. It’s probably because I didn’t have good ones, so it has made me push myself to be a great preceptor---a mentor to others who follow my career path.

I recently spoke to a potential client and the word, preceptor came up. It was a new word in that conversation on the receiving end. You know, precept, mentor, and lead by example?

Here’s what it means to me. Again…watch animals and they teach us.

As I watch my chickens interact in the backyard, I see a lot of mentoring. Chickens have a relatively short life, but what they accomplish in that time is pretty cool.

We recently had a super-cute, smart silkie, blond chicken named, Caramel, and she had a few life-changing injuries from predators. Her mentor, Rosie, a Rhode Island-red (natural leader) took the lead to see that Caramel was watched over. I watched one evening at dusk as Rosie led Caramel up the ramp to the coop for the night. Rosie was very patient as she waited at the top of the ramp for Caramel to reach it. I’m thinking it was a thousand years in Rosie’s mind, but Caramel eventually made her way up. When Caramel reaches the top, Rosie turns around and settles in next to Caramel. Once Caramel was settled, Rosie made her way to her bed.

Caramel has since passed and now I watch our two young chickens who are not yet laying eggs. Today I watched these two newbies resting and waiting right outside the coop while Rosie was laying her egg for the day. Rosie is a preceptor again! She is teaching the newbies where to lay. So cool!

Here’s the deal: it’s not about time, but it’s about the student, the intern, the person who is a sponge to learn a profession. Passion is a strong word and it’s what I have and I want my interns to have too. A student or intern can be any age, but when s(he) is ready to learn, that’s the time to mentor.

If you have the opportunity to lead by example to another person, take up the challenge. I personally learn from my interns as well as me teaching them. It’s a win-win and it’s important. I make the time. I would love to hear about your experiences mentoring others—the good, bad and the ugly! So far I have only xperienced the good. If you are a mentor, keep on being awesome. I think it’s worth it.