Nurse preceptors and their impact on quality nursing care

Are you a practicing clinical nurse or have practiced at some point of time in your career? Then, how about going down memory lane to the initial days at work. Were you nervous, freaking out, made some errors or got reprimanded by your senior? Did you wish the presence of a senior who would guide you and oversee how you are faring with the care of your patient, the dosage calculations or documentation or mentor you? Well, this is what a nurse preceptor is expected to do.

Who is a nurse preceptor?

“A nurse preceptor is an experienced and competent staff nurse who serves as a role model and is a point person to newly employed staff nurses, student nurses, or new graduate nurses”

The nurse preceptor, shadows the new nurse getting her accustomed to the new unit, role modeling & guiding her to provide effective patient care using evidence-based practice.

Role of a nurse preceptor

A nurse preceptor may perform varied roles such as

1. Educator-as she guides the new nurses in patient care, makes them understand their errors and provides answers to their questions.

2. Facilitator-as she helps the nurse understand the organizations’ as well as personal objectives.

3. Role model by providing leadership and professional approach to the practice

4. Mentor-by guiding and supporting the nurse in challenging moments

5. Socializer-by introducing the new nurse to the other staff members, acculturation and showing them how to function in the hospital.

For more details, you may read the following article:

Experience shared by a nurse on her preceptor

“When I think about nursing, and the type of nurse each individual should strive to be in their career, I automatically think of Julia. She is the most compassionate, respectful and intelligent nurse that I have ever had the privilege to work with and learn from.

Being a new nurse in the MICU is a very scary and overwhelming feeling, but I was lucky enough to be able to start my nursing career with Julia by my side as my preceptor. Each day I was able to watch how she interacted with her patients and colleagues. If her co-workers need help, Julia is always the extra hands. If I was feeling defeated and discouraged after a tough day, Julia picked me up and encouraged me that tomorrow was a new day and things do get easier. Having a mentor who was able to teach without getting frustrated, correct without making you feel like you’re being punished and was always positive and uplifting during difficult times made all the difference during my orientation.

Working with Julia was an amazing learning experience and very, very fun. That is just a very small testament to the kind of person Julia is day in and day out toward everyone in the MICU.”

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Why is nurse preceptorship important?

The first question asked by people who are new to the concept of nurse preceptorship is-“Is it really needed?” The following specifics will answer their question

1. It helps create a strong learning base: Preceptorship ensures that the new nurse is competent enough to provide quality care by the time they are allowed to function independently. Preceptors enhance the link between theory and practice and encourage the nurses to turn on their critical thinking skills by taking them through specific clinical decision-making processes.

2. It helps create a focus on quality: With proper guidance and role modelling, preceptors can drive the focus on “quality” in the mind of every new nurse. Quality may revolve around following infection control measures, keeping patient safety as a priority, effective communication with patients, family members and other healthcare workers or accurate documentation to name a few.

3. Boosts employee satisfaction and retention: A study revealed that between 13 percent and 75 percent of new graduate nurses leave their first jobs within one year for a variety of reasons, including the hospital culture and frustration at not being adequately prepared for their clinical role. (Trepanier, Early, Ulrich & Cherry, 2012).

The presence of a preceptor can help the new nurse adjust to the new challenging environment through the preceptor’s constant support. Preceptorship also helps strengthen the bond of employees to the organization thus leading to increased retention rates. High turnover rate turns out to be more costly for the hospitals.

Thus a preceptor assists in refining the knowledge & skills of the nurse. And we all know that a skilled nurse helps in better patient outcomes, less errors and improved patient and family satisfaction.

While hospitals may argue that recruiting preceptors add to the overall cost it would be worthwhile to look at its long term benefits.

The article below will throw more light on this

Competencies required to be an effective nurse preceptor

A nurse preceptor is expected to possess certain competencies if she has to lead the new nurse and these include:

  • A strong clinical background including knowledge of professional standards and policies as well as institutional protocols
  • Effective communication & teaching skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to encourage, motivate and provide constructive feedback
  • Assessment of learning needs and setting of daily goals & plans
  • Facilitate conflict resolution
  • Ability to transition patient care from preceptor to preceptee safely over time

There are also certain personal attributes that she should possess. Some of these include

  • Self confidence
  • Maturity
  • Warmth
  • Sense of humour
  • Empathy
  • Flexibility
  • Accountability

For some additional tips on being a great nurse preceptor, you may read the article below

As we all know that nurses form the largest workforce in any hospital. One of the ways a hospital’s reputation is looked at is on the basis of the nursing care provided. Some hospitals are known for excellent nursing care, while the reputation of some hospitals may be poor due to the lack of skilled nurses. Nurse preceptors play an important role in upskilling the young new nurses who come to the hospitals with inadequate patient care skills thus impacting the nursing care provided.




3. Trepanier, S., Early, S., Ulrich, B., & Cherry, B. (2012). New graduate nurse residency program: A cost-benefit analysis based on turnover and contract labor usage. Nursing Economics, (30)4, 207-214.


5. EllemesPhuma-NgaiyayePhD, RN, RMThokozaniBvumbweMCur (CHN), RNMep CorettaChipetaBScN, RN, RM

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