The Essential Guide to Nursing Preceptorship

Introduction to Nursing Preceptorship

Nursing preceptorship is a critical component of nursing education that bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world clinical practice. As an essential stepping stone in your nursing career journey, this experience enables future nurses to develop their clinical skills, gain confidence, and build relationships with experienced mentors. To ensure a successful and rewarding preceptorship experience, it’s crucial to understand the role of nurse preceptors, the expectations, and best practices for success.

What is Nurse Preceptor?

A nurse preceptor is an experienced and licensed clinician who supervises, teaches, and guides nursing students or newly graduated nurses during their clinical rotations. A nurse preceptor is a role model who pairs with novice nurses and students to facilitate teaching-learning in their field settings.

a nurse with her subordinates and a patient on wheel chair

It is an individualized teaching and learning approach for novice nurses and students are assigned to one experienced nurse or clinical supervisor. Their primary role is to facilitate the transition of theoretical learning to real-world clinical practice, ensuring that students develop the necessary skills and competencies to become confident and proficient nurses. Nurse preceptors are essential in all levels of nursing education, including bachelor’s, master’s, post-graduate, and doctoral degree programs.

The Emergence of Nursing Preceptorship

Nursing preceptorship is not a newly conceived idea. From the origin of modern nursing, during the times of Florence Nightingale, it was assumed that senior nurses would help newly graduated nurses and students in learning new skills and helping them in the care of their patients.

four nurses discussing something

Unfortunately, the concept of nursing preceptorship became faded by the time until 1960 when nurse practitioner programs in the United States revived that idea for student nurses in clinical teaching. Formal preceptorship programs were introduced in the United States and experienced nurses started to help students in their educational and learning activities. In the beginning, it was believed that nurses cannot teach and they don’t have broad exposure to clinical practices, so physicians were supposed to be the preceptors. But the main problem at that time was that nursing education from the hospitals to the nursing institutions rise the acquisition of nursing diplomas and nurses were granted staff nurse positions immediately after their diploma.

Newly graduated nurses were unable to assume all the patient care responsibilities in their clinical practices. The phenomenon was referred to as “reality shock”. Since 1970, significant changes were made in the teaching and learning approaches and the nursing preceptorship program started the journey to its rise. Today, nursing preceptorship has a significant role in nursing education and experience. It has become an integral part of nursing teaching and learning in clinical settings where newly graduated nurses and students are facilitated to achieve their professional grooming.

Role of a Nurse Preceptor

Nurse preceptor has many roles in the clinical and educational settings. Nurse preceptors play a vital role in nursing education as:

a nurse wearing the glasses in green scrubs

1. Mentor

Supporting and mentoring nursing students or new graduates in the learning of new skills, experience, and education by providing them with direct guidance and instructions.

2. Instructor

Providing direct instruction, observation, and feedback which help novice nurses and students to analyze their progress in experience and education.

3. Observer

Assessing students’ learning progress and clinical competence and filling those gaps with their wisdom and expertise.

4. Facilitator

Helping students develop problem-solving, decision-making, and critical thinking skills in clinical scenarios and critical situations.

5. Communicator

Fostering effective communication and collaboration within the healthcare team.

6. Role Model

Serving as role models and promoting professional nursing values and the ethical prospect of the nursing profession.

What are the Challenges of Preceptorship in Nursing?

Nursing preceptorship is a multidimensional role. Nurse preceptors are supposed to provide complete nursing care to their patients as well as teaching their preceptees. Research fostered the concept that nurse preceptors are overburdened during their clinical experience because, at the same time, they provide nursing care to their clients and teach nursing students and novice nurses. Many factors can affect the quality of preceptorship between the preceptor and preceptee such as:

1. Time

Preceptorship is a time-consuming activity that requires direct observation and guidance to novice nurses and students. Shortage of time during the shifts when nurses are busy completing their clinical tasks for clients, it becomes difficult to teach students quality teaching and nurse preceptors start to feel exhausted.

2. Environment

The physical environment of the clinical setting is very important in the teaching-learning process. If the environment is so noisy, crowded, and uncomfortable, it affects the both preceptor and preceptee to achieve the optimal level of the teaching-learning process.

3. Discussion

It is a pivotal element of effective nursing preceptorship that course expectations and objectives must be discussed properly and clearly and objectives should be set realistic and clear.

4. Communication

Effective communication between preceptor and preceptee ensures the exchange of ideas and knowledge in clinical practice. Lack of communication badly affects the learning process of students and newly graduated nurses.

5. Interpersonal Relationship

The relationship between preceptor and preceptee creates an environment of mutual understanding and direction in the teaching-learning process.
The relationship must be respectful, professional, ethical, and trusting.

6. Preceptor’s Knowledge and Competence

Preceptor’s knowledge should be up to date and an evidence-based. Lack of evidence-based knowledge impacts students’ learning in the wrong direction. Nurse preceptors should be proficient in their particular subject to meet the learning outcomes of preceptees.

How to Become a Nurse Preceptor?

Becoming a nurse preceptor requires a strong foundation in nursing education, clinical experience, and a passion for teaching and mentoring others. To become a nurse preceptor, a nurse must:

a nurse in green dress and white apron
  1. Hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing education.
  2. Have an unencumbered license to practice in the state where the preceptorship will take place to fulfill the legal and professional requirements.
  3. Possess clinical expertise in a specialty directly related to the associated clinical rotation.
  4. Demonstrate essential qualities such as enthusiasm for teaching, empathy, effective communication, and the ability to promote autonomy.

Benefits of Preceptorship in Nursing

Serving as a nurse preceptor offers numerous advantages for senior nurses it helps nurture their goals and expectations to achieve a high level of satisfaction in their field. There are many other benefits including:

1. Professional Growth

a. Being a nurse preceptor enhances the leadership, communication, and teaching skills of nurses.
b. It helps senior nurses to gain recognition and credibility within the nursing profession.
c. It strengthens the resume with an additional role as a mentor and educator in clinical practice.
d. It fulfills the requirements for credential renewal through continuing education hours.

2. Personal Satisfaction

a. Nurses achieve knowledge and experience in their field. It enhances personal satisfaction by returning to the nursing profession by training and mentoring future nurses.
b. It reconnects nurses with their passion for nursing and healthcare.
c. It helps in building meaningful relationships with students and colleagues.
d. It helps nurses to contribute the growth of the nursing workforce and address the nursing shortage.

What Makes a Good Preceptor in Nursing?

To excel in the role of nurse preceptor, consider the following tips:

a nurse in hospital scrubs

1. Understand Your Role

a. Be aware of your responsibility to guide students in their learning and clinical practice and strive to meet their learning needs.
b. Recognize the importance of bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world clinical practice.
c. Familiarize yourself with the learning objectives, clinical expectations, and assessment criteria for students.

2. Motivate and Inspire

a. Maintain a positive attitude and offer constructive feedback to students.
b. Encourage students to ask questions, seek help, and take ownership of their learning.
c. Celebrate students’ achievements and provide support during challenging situations.

3. Communicate Effectively

a. Establish clear expectations, goals, and boundaries with students.
b. Provide timely and specific feedback on student’s performance and progress.
c. Foster open and honest communication, encouraging students to express their concerns, ideas, and reflections.

4. Remain Objective and Empathetic

a. Understand that students will make mistakes and face challenges in their learning journey.
b. Avoid taking students’ struggles personally and focus on providing support and guidance.
c. Encourage students to learn from their mistakes and develop resilience.

5. Build Mutually Beneficial Relationships

a. Develop trust and rapport with students by being approachable, respectful, and empathetic.
b. Collaborate with students, faculty, and clinical staff to create a supportive learning environment.
c. Foster a sense of teamwork and belonging among students and colleagues.

How Do You Build a Preceptor and Preceptee Relationship?

The relationship between a preceptor and a preceptee is crucial to the success of the preceptorship experience. Establishing a positive, supportive, and collaborative bond can significantly impact the learning outcomes and overall satisfaction of both parties.

nursing preceptorship

1. Set Clear Expectations

At the beginning of the preceptorship, it’s essential to establish clear expectations for both the preceptor and preceptee. This includes discussing:
A. The clear and realistic goals and objectives of the clinical rotation.
B. The preferred teaching and learning styles and multidimensional approach in the teaching-learning process because every student differs in their learning style.
C. Schedule and structure the goals, objectives, and expectations for preceptorship.
D. Set the expectations for communication, feedback, and evaluation of students to analyze the progress and effectiveness of the preceptorship program.

2. Foster Open Communication

A. Maintaining open and honest communication throughout the preceptorship is a key to addressing any concerns, challenges, or misunderstandings that may arise during the teaching-learning process.
B. Encourage regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and opportunities for reflection and discussion with students or preceptees.

3. Cultivate a Supportive Learning Environment

A. Creating a safe and supportive learning environment is crucial to helping preceptees thrive. Encourage students to ask questions, seek guidance, and take risks in their learning.
B. Offer constructive feedback, celebrate achievements, and provide emotional support during challenging situations.

The Preceptorship Experience: What to Expect

The preceptorship experience varies depending on the nursing program, clinical setting, and individual preceptor. However, some common elements can help guide students and preceptors in navigating this unique learning opportunity.

1. Initial Orientation and Observation

During the first week of the preceptorship, students typically spend time shadowing and observing their preceptor to become familiar with the clinical setting, policies, and procedures. This period allows students to acclimate to the environment and gain a deeper understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

2. Hands-On Learning and Skill Development

As the preceptorship progresses, students begin to take on more hands-on responsibilities and practice their clinical skills under the supervision of their preceptor. This includes:

  • Performing assessments, interventions, and evaluations during the clinical rotation.
  • Developing nursing care plans and implementing evidence-based practices.
  • Collaborating with the healthcare team to ensure safe and effective patient care.

3. Ongoing Feedback and Evaluation

Throughout the preceptorship, preceptors provide ongoing feedback and evaluation of student’s performance, progress, and areas for improvement. This may include:

  • Regular feedback sessions should be conducted to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and areas for growth of students and novice nurses.
  • Formal evaluations and assessments to track learning outcomes and competencies.
  • Opportunities for self-reflection and goal-setting to guide students’ ongoing development.

Opportunities in Nursing Preceptorship

Nursing preceptorship presents various challenges and opportunities for both preceptors and students. Recognizing potential obstacles and embracing learning opportunities can help ensure a successful and rewarding experience.

1. Time Management and Workload

  • Balancing the demands of clinical practice with the responsibilities of precepting can be challenging for both preceptors and students.
  • Effective time management, prioritization, and delegation are essential skills to develop and practice throughout the preceptorship.

2. Communication and Interpersonal Skills

  • Navigating the complexities of the healthcare team and fostering effective communication among colleagues can be challenging for both preceptors and students.
  • Developing strong interpersonal skills, active listening, and conflict-resolution strategies can help facilitate successful collaboration and teamwork.

3. Adaptability and Flexibility

  • The dynamic nature of the clinical setting requires both preceptors and students to be adaptable and flexible in their approach to learning and practice.
  • Embracing change, remaining open to new experiences, and seeking growth opportunities can help foster resilience and professional development.

4. Advocating for Yourself as a Preceptee

As a preceptee, it’s essential to advocate for yourself and your learning needs throughout the preceptorship experience. This includes:

  • Communicating your goals, expectations, and learning preferences with your preceptor.
  • Seeking feedback and guidance on your performance and progress.
  • Addressing any concerns or challenges that may arise during the preceptorship.
  • Recognizing your strengths, limitations, and areas for growth.

5. The Importance of Networking and Professional Development

  • Nursing preceptorship offers valuable opportunities for networking and professional development. Building relationships with experienced clinicians, faculty, and peers can help expand your professional network and open doors to future career opportunities.
  • Participating in conferences, workshops, and continuing education programs can also enhance your knowledge, skills, and marketability in the nursing profession.

6. Making the Most of Your Preceptorship Experience

To maximize your nursing preceptorship experience, consider the following tips:

  • Approach the preceptorship with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn.
  • Be prepared, punctual, and actively engaged in your learning experiences.
  • Communicate openly and honestly with your preceptor, peers, and faculty.
  • Seek feedback, guidance, and support to enhance your clinical skills and competencies.
  • Reflect on your experiences, challenges, and achievements to guide your ongoing professional growth.


In conclusion, nursing preceptorship is a valuable opportunity to develop your clinical skills, gain confidence, and build relationships with experienced mentors. By understanding the role of nurse preceptors, setting clear expectations, and embracing learning opportunities, you can maximize your preceptorship experience and set the stage for a successful and rewarding nursing career.


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  2. Moody, J. (2023, October 25). Considering becoming a nurse preceptor? here’s what you need to know. Post University.
  3. Lethale, S.M., Makhado, L. and Koen, M.P., 2019. Factors influencing preceptorship in clinical learning for an undergraduate nursing programme in the North West Province of South Africa. International Journal of Africa Nursing Sciences10, pp.19-25.
  4. Find a nursing preceptor. Nursing Network. (n.d.).
  5. Why we need preceptors and the benefits of preceptorship. Why We Need Preceptors and the Benefits of Preceptorship | Baylor University Online. (2022, January 11).
  6. June 17, 2021. (n.d.). Preceptors needed: The 10 benefits of being a preceptor. Preceptors Needed: The 10 Benefits of Being a Preceptor | Wilkes University Online.
  7. West Coast University. (2022, December 15). Preceptorship tips for nursing students: How to make the most of your experience.
  8. Sanford, P. G., & Tipton, P. H. (2016, July). Is nursing preceptor behavior changed by attending a preceptor class?. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center).

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