Fostering Successful Preceptorships for Advanced Practice Nursing

Jean B. Ivey, DSN, CRNP


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2006;6(1) 

In This Article

Introduction: What Do Students Want?

Graduate nursing education relies heavily on preceptorships to prepare nurses for the advanced practice role. Both students and faculty recognize that it is difficult to find preceptors. Preceptors often voice problems about teaching while trying to maintain a full workload. Finding a balance so that the student receives appropriate learning experiences and the preceptor enjoys teaching but can function efficiently and effectively in a clinical practice is difficult.

In an effort to explore just what contributes to a positive preceptorship experience, students nearing graduation from a pediatric nurse practitioner program were asked what they wanted in a preceptor. One student reported:

I think he is a really good teacher. He asks questions to motivate me to think and to want to learn more. I think what I would like to take from this preceptorship is his great knowledge of children and illness as well as his compassion for his patients.

Another student commented that it was important for her to be able to question what the orders were and have a discussion about the alternatives with her preceptor rather than being expected to accept treatment decisions without question.

Others talked about how important it was to feel like their preceptors trusted them enough to let them work up and present the patient independently. One student commented that her preceptor went with her in every room every time she saw a patient for 2 semesters. When she started the third semester (her residency), "all of a sudden I was supposed to do it all by myself!"

One recent pediatric nurse practitioner program graduate said:

The best preceptors I've had were motivated, honest, respectful, encouraging, knowledgeable, passionate about their patients, and, most of all, excited about teaching. They were always open, willing to accept and answer any questions I asked. They made me feel welcome and comfortable in every situation. They corrected me in a professional and caring way when I made a mistake. They allowed me to have autonomy, yet challenged my knowledge base and practice with great questions that made me really think about what I was doing and why I was doing it.

She also commented:

One thing I noticed that great preceptors did and poor preceptors did not was to introduce me to their patients when we walked in the patient's room -- it makes a student feel respected, makes the child and family more comfortable, and makes it easier when a student later tries to establish trust. Hope this is helpful. I love this question -- I don't think it gets asked enough.

Another student said:

I wanted someone with a sound, well-rounded knowledge base who could answer all my many questions. Knowing my preceptor had years of experience gave me that confidence. I preferred someone relatively close to home, which saved valuable time. I enjoyed preceptors with whom I already had established a friendship; this helped me feel comfortable and at ease in an unfamiliar environment. A kind, understanding demeanor was always appreciated, as well.


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