Precepting is an organized, evidence-based approach to assist nurses who are new to practice or who are learning a new skill or role. For WSU College of Nursing undergraduate and advanced practice nursing students, preceptors provide thousands of hours of time and expertise to assist students with the entry to practice. The college is successful in preparing experienced nurses largely because of the support and commitment of preceptors in the community and of our healthcare partners. So what does it mean to be a preceptor, who should consider filling the role, and why?
The role of the nurse preceptor
Preceptors serve as mentors to nursing students. They help students advance toward independence in practice by providing them with knowledge of various patient care settings, teamwork, policies, procedures, and organizational culture. Preceptors serve as “guides from the side,” offering feedback to enhance learning for students and to help them reflect and monitor the effects of their practice on others.
Extending learning into clinical practice
Students receive a well-rounded nursing education at the college, but often it’s the hands-on experiences where students meet required professional learning objectives. Therefore it is crucial to recruit the right experienced nurses into the preceptor role. WSU College of Nursing looks for preceptors who are professionally recognized and respected in the healthcare profession and community. Students seek preceptors who provide feedback, are available to answer questions, help them understand nuances of professional practice, help with time management and organization, and who can teach them in different ways, such as a “tell me, show me, watch me” model.
“A truly excellent nurse who shares her expertise, skills, and approach with a student in a positive way makes all the difference in growing our nursing profession, one student at a time,” said Debbie Brinker, associate director for undergraduate programs and academic partnerships.
Debbie added, “See one, do one, teach one” has new meaning in this complex healthcare arena. A preceptor that takes time to invite a student ‘in’ to fully participate in care, sharing their knowledge, inquiring of the student regarding new evidence they’ve learned, pushing a student to have confidence trying a new skill, and providing constructive and positive feedback is life-changing for a student.
What is the experience like for nursing students?
Working with preceptors provides a safe learning environment where students can experience what it will be like to practice to the fullest extent of their license. Students are expected to provide preceptors with evidence of professional behaviors and should arrive on time, be professionally dressed, and show thoughtful preparation for the learning experience. They should complete required education prior to the clinical start date, be prepared to carefully observe patient privacy and safety regulations such as HIPAA compliance, and adhere to all college of nursing and agency policies and procedures. Students are expected to maintain accurate and confidential clinical logs describing all learning activities and all time spent in the clinical agency. While in the clinical setting, students will also demonstrate their ability to manage increasingly complex client/patient care, plan of treatment, client/patient education, and appropriate use of resources.