COMMENTARY

Precepting NP Students -- Who Needs It? We All Do

Tom G. Bartol, NP

Disclosures

December 13, 2017

Precepting Nurse Practitioner Students

Sharing knowledge and the culture of the nurse practitioner (NP) role is a key to training new NPs and perpetuating the profession, but work pressures and other barriers make it more challenging for NPs to precept students.

In a recent study, Roberts and colleagues[1] used a pair of national surveys to identify characteristics of NPs who precept students as well as incentives and benefits of precepting, while also exploring barriers to precepting.

With about a 10% response rate to each survey, a total of approximately 4500 NPs were surveyed from across the country. Benefits and incentives to precepting were identified, including learning opportunities, access to educational programs, developing relationships, continuing education credit for precepting, improved performance reviews from employers, and, for some, financial compensation.

The greatest barrier to precepting was time constraints. Other barriers included lack of support from employers, lack of space, electronic health record (EHR) issues, and inadequate staff support.

The study concluded that assisting with the education of future NPs is a shared responsibility of all in the NP profession.

Viewpoint

I regularly see emails and list-serve posts from NP students seeking preceptors. A combination of more students and fewer preceptors has increased the demand. Support from programs assisting students to find clinical sites has been declining. Students feel stress not only about learning clinical skills but also about finding qualified NPs to teach them these skills.

The shortage of clinical NP preceptors is one of the most critical links to the viability of NP education in the United States right now. The current model of NP education relies on NPs and other clinicians who volunteer their time (in most cases) to function as clinical educators. With increasing demands on NPs to see more patients, utilize more technology, and document performance measures, it can be challenging to find NPs who feel that they are able to add teaching students to all of these other demands. We are not alone in this, as this study and others have shown.[2]

If you are a clinician, you benefited from the many other clinicians who precepted you as a student, despite their many other duties and responsibilities. So why do so many of us say we don't have the time or resources to share with up-and-coming NPs?

For many years, I felt that way myself. When approached by a well-respected colleague, I took on the opportunity to precept again. My perspective changed from precepting as a duty or obligation to seeing it as an opportunity. I began to see how much I can grow and how many gifts I receive through teaching. I realized that these students were also teaching me! They are enthusiastic, eager to learn, and endless sources of new information. I used to pay to take classes to learn the kinds of things I now learn from students.

Precepting breaks through the monotony and pressures of our daily practice, bringing new life and energy from students. Precepting NP students is also an opportunity to create change in healthcare. I have the opportunity to share both my passion for the NP profession as well as practical ways of delivering healthcare, which I believe are more caring, compassionate, comprehensive, and patient centered. The more I precept, the more I also grow in my own practice.

Precepting students is not an option but both an obligation and an opportunity. We give back to our profession, including to those who helped us to become who we are, by sharing our knowledge, passion, and skills. Of greater importance, it is an opportunity for us to grow in our own vocation as NPs. We are helping nurture the future change agents and movers and shakers of our profession. These students need us, but we really need them.

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