How to Find a Nurse Preceptor Who is Right for You

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Nurse preceptorSo you’ve started your new role as a nursing graduate student. You’re excited, overwhelmed, and maybe a tad bit nauseated. This is a great moment for your nurse preceptor to walk into your life.

Let’s start with the basics: What is a nurse preceptor? A preceptor is an experienced nurse who is paired with a nursing student to put classroom theory into clinical practice and to provide guidance and support.

Finding the right nurse preceptor can assist in the transition from the classroom to hospital room or to a new specialty. How can you be sure that you pick the right person?

What are the preceptor/mentor requirements?

To find the right nurse preceptor for you, be prepared to ask the right questions, have the right answers for your preceptor, and communicate the correct requirements. All of these factors combined can lead to a wonderful partnership. As you review the resume or the curriculum vitae (CV) of prospective preceptors, look for a nurse who:

  • Holds a graduate degree in nursing, depending on the program level
  • Is educated in the area where they’re teaching or providing supervision, or be clinically experienced in those areas
  • Is licensed in his/her state and holds appropriate credentials
  • Has teaching and research experience (Most programs don’t require this, but it’s definitely an advantage.)

When you’re seeking your nurse preceptor, preparing to ask strategic questions can help you make the best decision when considering the right person. After all, you’ll be working closely with this person, and you’ll want to make sure you complement each other.

What to ask your possible preceptor

  • Have you been in a mentor position before?
  • How long have you been working in health care?
  • What is your working style?
  • How do you deal with stress?
  • How long have you worked in a specialty?

While you are interviewing possible preceptors to see if they’re a good fit for your needs, remember they are doing the same to you. Preparing to answer any questions they may have will help your conversation be more fruitful.

Questions your preceptor may have for you

  • What is required of me during this partnership?
  • How do I know if I qualify to be a nurse preceptor?
  • How long will my skills be required?
  • Will I be able to dictate our schedule or will that be planned for us?
  • What type of clinical practice site will we be working in?

It’s important you begin your preceptor search before you begin clinical classes. Make sure you give yourself enough time to search for the right fit.

What if I don’t know anyone who can/will be my preceptor?

If you’re still feeling stuck, consider speaking with colleagues at other health care facilities, who may agree to partner with you during this time. You may also want to expand your location search, for example, health care agencies other than acute care hospitals. Alternatives include clinics, public health departments, community agencies, and nonprofit organizations.

My preceptor wants to know what to expect. What should I tell them?

The role of a preceptor is to assist you in finding experiences that will allow you to complete your course assignments. As opposed to the preceptor role in pre-licensure nursing education programs, your preceptor will not be at your side at all times during your clinical work.

Our advice: Be proactive and an effective communicator. Give yourself adequate time to find the right preceptor, which will alleviate stress for all involved, plus it makes the experience more worthwhile for both of you. Communicating well and often will put you and your preceptor in the best position to create a great relationship.

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