Preceptorship is a method to bridge the gap between the classroom and the clinical area where nursing is practiced (Flynn & Stack, 2006). At the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, precepted experiences are used in senior level courses to prepare the student for the role of graduate nurse. Precepting involves three people: the preceptor, the student and the faculty member. There are responsibilities attached to each role and fulfillment of these expectations leads to a more positive experience.
The preceptor is an experienced registered nurse who is enthusiastic about the nursing profession and has a desire to teach. A preceptor prepares students using a variety of skills. Role modeling professional interactions on the care unit, demonstrating nursing actions, and giving timely and appropriate feedback to the student are ways of fulfilling this role.
The preceptor creates an environment conducive to learning and determines appropriate patient care assignments for students. In order to do this, the preceptor assesses the learning needs of the student and collaborates with him/her to determine goals and learning outcomes. The preceptor’s knowledge of the clinical area and the patient population will help guide students to select relevant and attainable goals and outcomes.
Communication between preceptor and student, and preceptor and faculty is vital. “Thinking out loud” helps the student see how the expert nurse solves problems or individualizes care. The preceptor provides feedback to students in a timely way and is willing to provide positive feedback as well as negative. Whatever the message, the feedback is given in and honest respectful way. Communication with the faculty includes ongoing assessment of the student’s progress and the overall experience itself. The preceptor contacts the faculty member with any concerns.
The preceptor assesses the student’s ability to manage clinical assignments and is aware of situations where the student needs direct supervision on more complex nursing actions. The preceptor also validates the completion of patient care activities assigned to students. At the end of the semester, the preceptor validates the student’s ability to meet outcomes of the course.
The faculty member is a liaison between the preceptor, the student and the clinical site. Faculty orients the preceptor to the course and expectations of the experience. They also provide supplemental information such as course outlines, written objectives and other forms specific to the course.
In addition, the faculty role is facilitative. Good communication skills are essential. (Myrick & Yonge, 2007). The faculty initiates the relationship between the preceptor and the student and sets the tone for the experience. Because faculty is also responsible for evaluating the student, two-way communication between both the preceptor and the student is vital. Faculty is available to the preceptor and student in a variety of ways. Conferencing may be done in person or over the phone. At the beginning of the course, faculty will give the preceptor contact information and together, they can decide the best way to communicate.
The student understands the objectives and learning outcomes of the course. In addition to course objectives, students write their own learning objectives for clinical time. The student looks for opportunities to learn and recognizes the wealth of information available on the clinical area. The student comes prepared for each day, and dresses and acts in a professional manner. The student requests assistance from the preceptor as needed and asks for feedback.
Shpritz, D.W. & O’Mara, A.M. (2006) Model preceptor program for student nurses. In Flynn, J.P. & Stack, M.C. (Eds.) Boston: Springer.
Myrick, F. & Yonge, O. (2007). Connecting Practice & Education. Philadelphia: Lippincott.