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

Citations: 

Roberts, M. E., Wheeler, K. J., Tyler, D. O., & Padden, D. L. (2017). Precepting nurse practitioner students: A new view—Results of two national surveys of nurse practitioner preceptors. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 29(8), 484-491. 

Wiseman, R. F. (2013). Survey of advanced practice student clinical preceptors. Journal of nursing education, 52(5), 253-258. 

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 are a critical element of our students’ development as an APRN 

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

Their work with preceptors provides a platform for translation- where they begin to apply what they learned in didactics. Students also see how experienced clinicians’ utilize the science they have been learning in the classroom.   

Talking over the patients that you see together,  students are picking up on how you synthesize patient data and make decisions.  In this process, they begin to cultivate cultivating clinical decision making.  

Within this process you are showing students how to parse out-patient information, prioritize the presenting problems and formulate a treatment plan.  

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

Citation: National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties. (2015). Partners in NP Education: A Preceptor Manual for NP Programs, Faculty, Preceptors & Students. Second edition. Washington, DC.

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. Please ask your student for this document.