Preceptorship in nursing involves the nursing faculty, students and the clinical site. A nurse preceptor is usually an experienced Registered Nurse (RN) who has good qualifications and teaching skills that is assigned by the faculty to teach nursing students or novice nurses in clinical settings.

Former studies have shown that newly qualified nurses often encounter difficulties in the transition from nursing school to real work practices. Additionally, the increase in multiple chronic diseases, aged care coupled with nurse shortages and increased workloads have made the transition process even more challenging.

In response towards these challenges, the preceptorship approach should be continuously reinforced by nursing personnel so that students are ready to engage in any clinical situation. For faculty members, selecting a nurse preceptor based on your qualities is important as a means of improving the preceptorship programme.

1.Clinically competent

The core objective of preceptorship is to improve students’ clinical skills. In line with this goal, a nurse preceptor must be a RN who is clinically competent and able to handle any given patient care conditions. Effective guidelines, such as evaluation skill forms or competency checklists, can be used by the faculty to validate a nurse preceptor’s competency in clinical skills.

These guidelines should consist of various nursing procedures depending on the student’s year of study or semester. The procedures can be as simple as doing an assessment and documentation up to more rigorous procedures which involve crucial skills in maintaining sterility such as inserting the urinary catheter and wound management. Assigning a clinically competent nurse preceptor is crucial as they will be able to work independently and encourage a better teaching and learning environment for nurses.

2. Applies up-to-date, high quality research to nursing care

Apart from clinical competency, a qualified nurse preceptor should be a knowledgeable practitioner who follows with current nursing updates and nursing research practices. They need to ensure that they are well-versed with nursing practices as this will help them to identify ways to provide optimal patient care and apply their knowledge into the teaching session.

The demand for evidence-based quality improvement in healthcare highlights the need for nurse preceptors to keep track on nursing care changes. For example, a nurse preceptor may allow the students to provide ice to cancer patients who has undergone several chemotherapy sessions as this practice has been supported by nursing research; keeping ice in the mouth during chemotherapy infusion reduces the severity of muscositis.

3. Calm under pressure

Given that nurse preceptors often face challenging tasks and situations, the added responsibility of controlling a group of students at one time could be difficult. Additionally, they may face other difficulties such as uncorrelated systems between clinical sites and faculty guidelines, the need to achieve the precepting objectives within a short period, and managing students with a variety of characters and personalities.

Consequently, all of these can create job pressure if the preceptor cannot cope with the problems. Hence, holding up this position requires the nurse preceptor to have stress management skills and a calm personality.

4. Confident in own nursing practice

In any clinical workplace, we may notice that nursing care practices based on institutional policy could be slightly different from the faculty guidelines. Even though the preceptor has graduated from different nursing schools, both parties (the future preceptor and faculty) should take the first step by discussing the procedures involved and clarify any uncertainties involved in nursing care interventions.

In view of this, it is imperative that preceptors are confident in their own knowledge and skills as this will make them an excellent professional role model for interns.

5. Enthusiastic and manages students well

Teaching and learning in preceptorship requires a nurse preceptor to be keen on working with students. They are responsible for evaluating the learning needs of students, creating a conducive learning environment and collaborating with them to determine the goals and learning outcomes. At the end of the clinical teaching, the preceptor will provide appropriate and honest feedback on the student’s performance. MIMS

Read more:
How to work well with a nurse preceptor
Preceptors: How to employ the skills of both a mentor and a coach
The challenges of being a migrant nurse