Preceptors and Preceptees


  • Trauma Columnist
    Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

Being a preceptor is one of the most important roles a nurse can fill. It's a vital role as nurses transition to practice whether new grad or experienced nurse.'s Community Manager, Mary Watts, BSN, RN interviewed Kelly Powers, PhD, RN, CNE and Julie Pagel, MSN, RN, CCRN, SCRN, CNE-cl at NTI about precepting

Important skills that new grads need to learn when they take on their first nursing job include:

  • Prioritizing care for the included population
  • Becoming a team member and integrating into the unit
  • Learning or further perfecting procedures needed to care for patients
  • Becoming familiar with Institution organization: how to page a provider, who to call for specific issues
  • Charting in an electronic medical record

Preceptor experience depends on several factors:

  • The type of unit
  • The acuity of care
  • Type of patient
  • Experience of the preceptee
  • Individual learning styles

The Transition to Practice Study recommends "6-12 months for a successful experience. Hospitals using established programs had higher retention rates, and the nurses in these programs reported fewer patient care errors, employed fewer negative safety practices, and had higher competency levels, lower stress levels, and better job satisfaction. Structured transition programs that included at least six of the following elements were found to provide better support for newly graduated RNs: patient-centered care, communication and teamwork, quality improvement, evidence-based practice, informatics, safety, clinical reasoning, feedback, reflection, and specialty knowledge in an area of practice."

Skills that a good preceptor needs include:

  • Being supportive of new grads and new employees
  • Ability to adapt to individual preceptee's previous experiences
  • Knowledgeable about unit/hospital policies
  • Willing to admit they don't know everything and provide resources for the preceptee

It's very important that there is a helpful and supportive environment for the new grad and new employee. It can be a stressful experience for both the preceptor and preceptee and it's very important to match learning styles with the information provided. There is a national nursing shortage so it is imperative from a business model to have a successful preceptor program.

Training is, of course, necessary for the preceptors in order to provide a positive learning experience. This is necessary for many reasons. Preceptors need clear expectations, solid training in the educational model and how to teach. Role-playing is one part of this training.

In order to improve programs feedback is important. Preceptors need training in order to be successful and to improve their experience. By contrast, new grads look to the preceptor to be their role model and provide clear expectations.

Precepting can be very challenging, exciting and rewarding. One of the pluses discussed in the interview includes, "It's so great to see the "aha" moment from new grads." It is also important that the organization rewards and recognizes preceptors. The preceptor/preceptee relationship is often the key to nursing retention.

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