The word "preceptor" is defined as teacher or instructor. In the area of health care it means a licensed and experienced health care professional--such as a registered nurse--who takes on the responsibility to train and guide, usually newly registered nurses, who desire to become more competent in their area of expertise. Preceptors impart knowledge to nursing students in an experiential process.
Nursing preceptor training prepares the student, or preceptee, for adaptation to a new role in health care. Preceptors mentor the trainees and help them see the range of roles they will perform in a clinical setting. They guide new nurses in the transition from student to working professional or from one nursing specialty to another.
Certain skills are required on the part of the preceptor in addition to having knowledge and experience in the subject matter being taught. The effective nurse preceptor is a combination planner, coach, cheerleader, advocate and role model for the preceptee. Nurse preceptors guide the nurse--whether newly graduated or changing specialties--in transitioning to her new role.
Toward the goal of preparing preceptees, the nursing preceptor arranges for clinical space and a variety of clinical patient encounters within the rotation to ensure the student receives a wide clinical experience. Preceptors provide supplemental information to strengthen the student's current knowledge. They help develop the student's skills by observing, demonstrating and advising during the clinical phase of the rotation. Preceptors ensure that students do not practice outside of their known competencies and within state regulations. Preceptors are required to be on-site to teach, consult and supervise the student.
Licensed registered nurses with experience in the specialty being taught the student can acquire the training to become a preceptor by attending courses provided by various medical institutions, via training materials available through online purchase or by participating in self-paced Internet-based training programs. Qualification requirements for nursing preceptor training candidates, such as years of experience in the specialty area, vary from employer to employer.
The benefits realized by effective preceptors spread across multiple areas. Nursing students benefit from support and encouragement of a practicing professional, individualized learning and increased confidence in nursing skills. The nursing preceptor benefits from recognition as a role model and satisfaction of sharing knowledge and experience and opportunities to influence workplace changes. The medical facility enjoys better retention of skilled nurses and recruitment of new nurses with recognized skills.