When nursing students graduate and begin their practice in the hospital setting, it’s vital for them to have an effective orientation program that will enable them to make a smooth transition from student to professional. As a result, dedicated nurse preceptors are vital to the success of healthcare organizations and to the retention of nurses in the profession.
Preceptors are experienced and competent staff nurses who serve as role models and resource people to newly employed staff nurses, student nurses, or new graduate nurses, who are all known as ‘preceptees.’ They combine the knowledge, skills, abilities, and roles of both coaches and mentors to help preceptees develop and mature into strong practicing professionals.
As role models for new nurses, valuable preceptors must socialize, protect, educate, and evaluate the nurses who are making the transition into a new work environment.
It's not enough to just have a preceptor program; preceptors must be properly educated and trained to pass their knowledge on to the next generation of nurses.
An effective preceptor needs to be capable of:
Preceptors should introduce preceptees to their new roles and responsibilities, coach them on the basics (for example, when/where to report, where to find supplies and resources, how to use equipment, etc.), evaluate performance, give feedback for improvement, and introduce the preceptee to a wider network of nurses. Ideally, it would also be a great service for preceptors to refer their preceptee charges for projects, committees, advancements, and honors within the professional practice environment and community, whenever possible.
One example of a successful preceptor program is the Nurse Preceptor Academy (NPA), created to provide nurse preceptors with tools to empower new graduate nurses and newly hired experienced RNs to become competent and valuable members of the healthcare team.
The NPA (www.kchealthcareers.com) is one of several healthcare initiatives from the Kansas City Metropolitan Healthcare Council, funded by the Department of Labor through a Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development grant.
During daylong workshops, preceptors participate in activities to increase their understanding of the preceptor role and to enhance their ability to assess the learning needs of preceptees, communicate effectively, provide constructive feedback, and resolve conflicts successfully.
Preceptors also take the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment to increase their awareness of individual behaviors that may enhance the working relationships they develop with preceptees and other colleagues.
Did you know that the Lippincott Professional Development Collection library includes an entire program set of Preceptor Preparation courses, which are all accredited for CE? Click HERE to browse these courses, which are available for both individual and institutional purchase.
What kinds of things do you do to prepare nurse preceptors for success with nursing students? What recommendations would you have for others who are new to nurse preceptor programs? Leave us a comment below.