Preceptorship bridges the gap between the classroom and the clinical area where nursing is practiced. 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. Each role has the following responsibilities:
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. To do so, 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 students with timely, honest and respectful feedback, whether positive or negative. Communication with faculty includes ongoing assessment of the student’s progress and the overall experience. The preceptor contacts the faculty member with any concerns.
Preceptors assess the student’s ability to manage clinical assignments and stays aware of situations in which students need direct supervision on more complex nursing actions. The preceptor also validates students' completed assignments. At the end of the semester, the preceptor validates the student’s ability to meet course outcomes.
The faculty member is a liaison among the preceptor, student and clinical site. Faculty orient the preceptor to the course and expectations, supplemented by course outlines, written objectives and other course-specific forms.
The faculty role is also facilitative and good communication skills are essential. The faculty initiate the relationship between preceptor and student and set 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 via conferencing done in person or over the phone. At the beginning of the course, faculty give the preceptor contact information and together, they 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.