Who is Nursing Preceptor

The transition from nursing graduate to experienced nurse takes time, experience and — most importantly — some help along the way. A nursing preceptor can literally make or break a new graduate, helping her gain self-confidence and technical skills or undermining his confidence. Sadly, in some cases, a poor preceptor experience can drive the new nurse out of the organization or even the profession. A good preceptor, however, can seed the profession with excellence.

What Preceptors Need

Nursing preceptors need several important skills and characteristics. First, the preceptor must really like teaching. A preceptor who indicates that the newbie is a nuisance or a burden doesn’t belong in the role. Preceptors need plenty of patience, rather like a parent who must answer “why” from a child every other minute. The preceptor must be an expert clinician and an expert communicator, able to show how to do something and explain it clearly as well. Preceptors must balance compassion with standards; the new graduate does need support, but may also need some pushing to achieve top performance. Finally, preceptors should be open to new concepts and ideas. “That’s just the way we’ve always done it” isn’t likely to encourage the new graduate to grow as a nurse.



A Variable Approach

New graduates typically fall into one of two categories: the nurse who is starting her first real job and the second-career graduate who may have extensive experience in another field. Although each is new to nursing, they will often need a different approach. The true newbie will probably need much more support and a lot of the basics: things like punctuality, interactions with other staff and teamwork. A second-career grad, on the other hand, may have some bad habits to unlearn. The preceptor must be able to adapt her style to each of these nurses. Second-career grads may bring other skills to the workplace that will be valuable in their nursing careers; a wise preceptor takes note of such things and keeps the boss informed of people with quality improvement, financial or management experience.


Feedback is crucial to a new graduate. The first mistake (and every new graduate makes at least one) is an important learning experience. The preceptor who approaches an error supportively and uses it as an opportunity to learn has set the stage for growth rather than self-blame. However, it’s important to deliver negative feedback as well, to ensure the nurse meets standards of practice.

At the end of the preceptorship, the new nurse should get written feedback that highlights improvements, skills gained and areas for further improvement. And keep the door open, so the new nurse can come back if necessary. Preceptors often become long-term mentors.






Written by 3rd independent party

2016-24130  Exp. 6/18