Nurse Preceptor: A Guide to Greatness

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Written by Ann Real, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse preceptor explains a concept to his mentee.

Think back to your first day as a nurse. The fear, confusion, and uncertainty were probably overwhelming — a shared experience among many new grads. That’s why every entry-level nurse needs a nurse preceptor to show them the way through the complex terrain of clinical practice. This mentor’s mission is to help transform new nurses from novices to experts.

This article is your go-to guide on how to be a good preceptor in nursing — one that leaves a lasting, positive impression on new nurses. We’ll cover essential qualities, list key responsibilities, and highlight teaching tips aimed at helping you become an inspirational mentor.

What Is a Preceptor in Nursing?

What’s the actual definition of a preceptor in nursing? A nurse preceptor is an experienced nurse who helps a new nurse transition into their role. Essentially, precepting is a teaching style you often see in healthcare education. It’s a short-term, one-on-one setup.

Preceptors act as both supervisors and supporters. They’re the voice saying, “Don’t do it!” when you’re about to turn a patient without raising a bed’s side rails — an unsafe move. They are the cornerstone of nursing evolution, passing their wisdom to ignite the flame of competence in their protégés.

Nurse Preceptor Roles and Responsibilities

Nurse preceptors guide and advise new nurses, adapting their responsibilities based on specialty type, nursing level, and clinical setting. In this essential role, they create a supportive learning environment, emphasizing safety, knowledge transfer, and cultural integration in healthcare.

Check out the typical roles and responsibilities of a nursing preceptor:

  • Provide guidance and support to new nurses as they transition into their roles.
  • Offer hands-on training and instruction in clinical practices and procedures.
  • Oversee the work of nurse orientees, ensuring adherence to protocols and standards.
  • Serve as a role model by demonstrating professionalism, effective communication, and clinical competence.
  • Assess the progress of nurse orientees and provide constructive feedback.
  • Emphasize safety protocols, preventing potential risks during patient care activities.
  • Share practical insights to enhance the understanding and application of nursing skills.
  • Help new nurses assimilate into the organizational culture and values.
  • Act as a resource for information, answering questions and providing clarification on policies and procedures.
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals to create a supportive learning environment.

How to Be a Good Preceptor in Nursing: 3 Tips

1. Make Sure Your Training Stays Top-Notch

The medical field is dynamic, with new evidence-based practices evolving each year. You can stay up to date on the latest nursing practices in the following ways:

2. Mix Learning Modalities

We don’t all retain information in the same way. According to teaching models, like Dale’s Cone of Experience, learners retain information better when they actively engage with the material rather than simply hearing, seeing, or reading it. For example, learning how to use an IV pump is easier when you hear it explained and have a chance to play around with the settings. In fact, people typically remember the following percentages of new material through different modalities:

  • Reading: 10%
  • Hearing: 20%
  • Seeing: 30%
  • Seeing and hearing: 50%
  • Saying and writing: 70%
  • Doing: 90%

3. Strategize Your Teachings

As an experienced nurse, you have a lot to share. However, try not to spill out all the information at once. Plan strategically by determining the most vital information to teach first. Create a teaching plan that progresses from the essential to the less critical, reinforcing and expanding knowledge each week as your preceptee gets the hang of things. Here are some ideas to include in your teaching plan:

  • Facility orientation
  • Introduction to the healthcare team
  • Role-specific tasks and responsibilities
  • Policies and procedures
  • Basic nursing procedures
  • Patient assessment and monitoring
  • Responding to emergencies
  • Medication administration
  • Navigating electronic charting systems
  • Self-care and stress-management

Importance of Preceptorship in Nursing

As the healthcare system continues to go through a rough patch — with nursing shortages, strikes across the country, and healthcare workers leaving jobs left and right — the importance of preceptorship in nursing can’t be emphasized enough.

Thanks, in part, to government initiatives like loan forgiveness programs, we still see new nurses entering the field. However, with many experienced nurses leaving the profession, the question arises: Who is there to train new nurses?

Clinical preceptors are essential for building a strong nursing workforce to fulfill the increasing demand for quality healthcare. For nurses stepping into uncharted territory, the preceptor is the go-to resource and plays a key role in preparing them for the challenges ahead.

Here’s why preceptorship is crucial for a strong nursing workforce:

  • Effective preceptorship has been linked to lower turnover rates, as new nurses who feel well-supported and competent in their roles are more likely to stay in their positions.
  • Successful preceptorship contributes to higher job satisfaction among new nurses, as they feel valued, competent, and engaged in their work.
  • Preceptors help new nurses cope with the emotional demands of patient care and the challenges of transitioning into the professional nursing role.
  • Preceptors share practical insights, experiences, and clinical wisdom that may not be covered in formal education, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of nursing practice.
  • Preceptors tailor their guidance to the specific needs and learning styles of each preceptee, facilitating a personalized and effective learning experience.
  • Preceptors gradually empower new nurses to work independently, fostering a smooth transition from being a student to a competent, autonomous healthcare professional.

Nurse Preceptor Salary

The average salary for a nurse preceptor in the U.S. is $81,235, with a range between $73,859 and $92,048. Your salary range will defer based on your experience, education, and location, among other factors.

If you’re open to relocation, you might be interested in the states that offer the highest pay. Here are some of the country’s top-paying states:

Need a Change? Find the Best-Matching Job

Do you want to be a nurse preceptor? Or will you be assigned one as a new nurse? IntelyCare is the job matchmaker for new and experienced nurses. Sign up today to receive nursing job alerts tailored just for you.