For the Novice Preceptor

A smiling medical professional, wearing a white coat and holding a folder
Why become a preceptor?

The literature shows many reasons why providers have chosen to precept:

  • To share their clinical expertise
  • To develop the next generation of practitioners
  • To enhance a partnership with academic institutions
  • To build their clinical site’s workforce
  • To receive academic partnership advantages, such as:
  • For APRNS, obtaining verification of precepting hours that can be used for ANCC recertification 
  • Potential for adjunct faculty status


Practitioners also report intangible advantages:

  • Precepting a student helps in ongoing maintenance of expert clinical skills
  • Precepting cultivates an updated knowledge of evidence-based care by:
  • Motivating the practitioner to explore the literature and care, and
  • Initiating conversations that narrow the theory-practice gap
  • Patients experience more personalized care because they will spend time with both the student and provider
  • Students may raise issues that initiate a productive line of inquiry with the patient
Who can be a preceptor?

A preceptor must have authorization by the appropriate state licensing entity to practice and/or specialty area.

A preceptor must have educational preparation appropriate to his/her area(s) of supervisory responsibility and at least one year of relevant clinical experience:

  • Master’s degree or higher in nursing-related field
  • MDs and DOs may also precept APRN students
  • Physician Assistants are also able to precept

National certification in the relevant specialty area is preferred but relevant clinic experience will also be considered.

Our school will ask you for a copy of your current license and national certification, if appropriate.

A preceptor’s role in student development

Preceptors play a vital role in a nurse practitioner’s development.

Prior to clinical practicum, students complete several semesters of course work to understand health, illness and treatment.

As they work beside you in practice, they see both the application of their didactic course work and how practitioners move science into everyday clinical work. They see your expertise in action.

Within the dialog around patients and the decisions you make, students are learning critical thinking skills.

You will bridge the gap between the information presented in class and the application of that knowledge in the clinic setting.

As a preceptor, you will both mentor and coach students, inspiring through example as you provide guidance and share wisdom.

You are teaching students how to use patient information and available evidence to develop a treatment approach.

As the student grows in confidence, they will begin to demonstrate the patient care competencies vital to their future success.

Who are our students and what are the student expectations?
  • Experienced, licensed RNs
  • Enrolled in a program
  • Completed all core courses before starting clinic, including courses in:
  • Sciences: Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology and Applied Pharmacology, Psychopathology
  • Graduate courses in health promotion theory, research, statistics
  • Population health, epidemiology
  • Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostics
  • DNP: Leadership, Healthcare Economics


We have particular expectations for students:

  • Collaborate with the preceptor to schedule clinical experiences
  • Submit the clinical schedule to the faculty prior to the start of the term
  • Adhere to safety principles and legal and ethical standards
  • Be clear with what they are expected to do during this rotation
  • Complete a self-evaluation of clinical competencies
  • Be accountable for clinical preparation of assigned patients
  • Contact faculty by telephone, pager or email if faculty assistance is necessary
  • With the preceptor, comply with the clinical agency policy and procedures
  • Provide information regarding background to preceptor 
  • Arrive to clinical site on time and prepared
  • Conduct oneself professionally
  • Accept responsibility for care delivery at the direction of the preceptor
  • Accept guidance, criticism, and evaluation from those in a supervisory role in a professional manner
  • Defer final decisions related to patient/client care to those in a supervisory role
  • Sign-off patient/client care when leaving unit
  • Document all patient/client care according to clinical setting standards
Expectations of preceptors
  • Help students develop clinical competencies via role modeling, mentoring and coaching
  • Demonstrate and model professional interactions, responsibilities and behaviors
  • Explain clinical reasoning, practice parameters and practicalities of patient care
  • Design learning experiences and patient care assignments commensurate with students’ ability
  • Provide feedback to students and twice a year do a formal assessment of performance
  • Discuss learning expectations with student and faculty
  • Provide patient/client care experiences for the student to meet course and personal objectives
  • Validate patient/client history, physical assessment, and pertinent data as reported by the student
  • Read and co-sigh student’s orders/charting
Orienting your student to your site

Orienting your student

  • Show the student some useful areas around the site, such as where they can keep their belongings.
  • Describe the appropriate dress code at your site.
  • Describe the flow of your clinic or site, and what a typical day will look like.
  • Introduce the student to your staff.

Student expectations

  • Discuss how student can view the upcoming schedule of patients each day in the EMR
  • Explain what you expect from the student (attitudes, behaviors and actions)
  • Describe to the student:
  • How patients are selected for the student
  • The length of time to spend with each patient
  • The key elements of a patient’s chart that they are responsible to know
  • For inpatient experiences, describe to the student the daily process flow, unit expectations and unit leadership

The basics

  • Provide essential emails, numbers and contact information
  • Tell them about any time off you anticipate
  • Provide direction for writing chart notes:
  • Ensure that the student has been oriented to your electronic medical record and discuss expectations related to patient documentation
  • Provide site-specific directions for writing chart notes
  • Explain how you usually work with students and when there will be time for questions, eg.g. in between each visit, at the end of the day or at the end of the week
  • Share how previous students have been successful

Getting to know your student

The student should inform you of:

  • Clinical rotations completed and type of patients seen
  • Experience and skills mastered
  • Clinical competencies to focus on; specific knowledge and skills to develop
Progression through clinicals
Rush University College of Nursing students progress through three to four semesters of clinical practicum extending continuously over one year. During the clinical practicums, the student is expected to achieve competency in the clinical skills necessary to become a safe beginning-level nurse practitioner.
  • This usually requires two days a week at a clinical site for 14 weeks.
  • Students are allowed to work with multiple preceptors to achieve these hours.
  • Specifics of these clinical skills can be found in the Clinical Evaluation Tool (PDF format or Word doc)
Introducing the APRN student to your patients

Introduce them as “an APRN student,” not “a student APRN.”

Take a positive approach and emphasize some benefits of the Preceptor - APRN student team.

  • Example: “This student will be speaking with you and examining you prior to our visit. S/he is highly skilled, and we will be working together to give you the best treatment possible.”

Reassure the client that they are getting the care they would normally receive, plus the addition of an intelligent, detail-oriented and motivated APRN student.

  • Example: “I have an APRN student working with me. I am going to have her/him begin asking questions and complete the physical exam, and then I will be back in…”
  • Example: “An APRN student is working with me today. Together, we are going to begin the history, but I am going to have her/him take the lead. I am available to her/him and to you at all times.”

Additional comments you might make:

  • Tell the client that they were chosen specifically to give the APRN student an opportunity to learn, and you will be there every step of the way.
  • Describe the APRN student as providing “a fresh set of eyes.”
  • Remind the client that the APRN student is an experienced RN.

Clients may always refuse. If this happens, remind the student that it does not reflect on their skills or abilities.