The Clinical Preceptor in Nurse Practitioner Education

Marilyn W. Edmunds, PhD, CRNP


December 28, 2010

Preceptor Expectations and Issues With Nurse Practitioner Clinical Rotations

Brooks MV, Niederhauser VP
J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2010;22:573-579.

Study Summary

Ensuring that nurse practitioner (NP) students have a good learning experience with clinical preceptors is an ongoing challenge for all clinical programs. The clinical preceptors must clearly understand the level of the student's current education and training and the goals for the corresponding learning period. These must be congruent with the other demands on the preceptor and the expectations of the faculty member who has ultimate responsibility for the education and evaluation of the NP student.

The aims of Brooks and Niederhauser's study were (1) to identify NP preceptor expectations held by university faculty members and students, (2) to identify the best methods of communication between university faculty members and preceptors, and (3) to elicit issues for improvement for the student and preceptor experience.

In a cross-sectional descriptive design, a survey was sent to all clinicians who had functioned as preceptors for NP students at the University of Hawaii from 2003 to 2004 (n = 108). The response rate was 67% (28% men and 72% women); the mean age of the respondents was 46.3 years. Most preceptors were NPs (68%), 28% were physicians, and 4% were nurse midwives. Just over one half of preceptors (51%) expected 2 site visits by faculty per semester, 57% believed that faculty members should observe 2 patient visits with students, and 65% said that the first site visit should occur in the first 4 weeks of the semester.

Brooks and Niederhauser concluded that an assessment of preceptors' issues and expectations related to faculty site visits can improve relationships with preceptors and secure and maintain clinical placements for NP students. Recommendations include improving communication, establishing guidelines for site visits, and periodic assessment of progress in preceptor/student relationships.


This is an especially important topic for research. Clinical sites, which are precious resources for any program, are at a premium. Unlike many other graduate nursing programs, there is no dearth of students for NP programs. A lack of faculty and a lack of quality preceptors are 2 of the major barriers to accepting more students into these demanding educational programs.

To ensure the best clinical experience possible for the NP student, faculty and preceptors must each have a clear role in the educational process. This requires that they work together before, during, and after the student's clinical experience. This article's recommendations should help both faculty and preceptors as they work together to craft the best possible clinical experience for students.



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