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What is Preceptorship?

As a student nurse, you will have probably heard of the term Preceptorship, but maybe you are not clear on what this is or what it means to you.

Essentially, once a nurse is live on the NMC register (NMC is the Nursing and Midwifery Council) he or she becomes a qualified nurse (read more on our article “When am I actually a qualified nurse”).

So it means they are confirmed as safe, effective and proficient practitioners (NMC, 2008).

However, the NMC recognises that newly registered nurses need an additional period of support in their new role. This support is called preceptorship and is designed to help develop confidence and enhance competence, critical thinking and decision-making skills.

I spoke to one individual who had gone from a student nurse in A&E to qualified staff member with little or no support:

I’ve just started in A&E.  I’ve been there 3 weeks now. I feel so overwhelmed with it all. It’s a total shock, feel so unprepared.

Preceptorship in nursing can help reduce staff nurses having this kind of experience.

The NMC recommends that all nurses in their first qualified role should have a period of preceptorship to support them through the period of transition in their new role.

Preceptorship definition

Preceptorship is defined as:

A period to guide and support all newly qualified practitioners to make the transition from student to develop their practice further‘ (NMC, 2006). During this time they should be supported by a Preceptor, who is an experienced practitioner to develop their confidence as an independent professional.

The RQIA (Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority) includes Preceptorship in Nursing in its standards for nursing homes. They state that:

Newly qualified registered nurses undergo a comprehensive period of preceptorship in keeping with NMC guidance. The duration is determined by the competency and capability of each individual registered nurse.

The Trust also offers a similar structured period of Preceptorship in line with NMC guidance.

Preceptorship takes around 6 months but can be completed in a shorter time frame dependant on the individual. It is usually undertaken alongside orientation, induction and probation. You can’t “fail” your Preceptorship. If you need more time to achieve criteria, then the time frame is simply extended.

Once it is completed, you may be given a certificate of completion, or have a booklet you can use as evidence, but not all organisations will provide this. Generally, after you have been working for 6 months it is just assumed you have completed your Preceptorship period.

You are unlikely to be asked to provide evidence of Preceptorship if you are applying for jobs, but if you have something formal, keep a copy in your portfolio.

Generally, most Agencies will not offer roles to newly qualified nurses until they have six months of experience, during which time the nurse is expected to have completed a period of Preceptorship. The exception to this is permanent roles, or long term temporary roles where Preceptorship is provided as part of the package. The reasons that Agencies do this is to ensure that you are safe and competent as an experienced practitioner and are able to take charge of an area if needed.

Some organisations in the private sector will offer Preceptorship periods but will ask you to sign a contract for a year. This is because these organisations have found that newly qualified nurses who haven’t got into Trust roles, will apply to work in a nursing home (for example) but leave as soon as they have completed their Preceptorship period and try to go into the Trust via an Agency.

If an organisation offers you this as part of their contract, don’t dismiss it. View it as an opportunity and consider the skills and experience you will get within this role. See our blog on progressing your nursing career.

In summary…

If some of the information above was a little too long winded and you’re still not quite clear on exactly what it means for you,  here are your  Preceptorship Pointers:

  • As a newly qualified nurse in your first nursing role, you should be given a period of Preceptorship. The NMC recommends it, and the RQIA requires it.
  • Preceptorship is a period to support newly qualified nurses to make the transition from student to develop their practice further
  • A Preceptorship Programme is usually around 4- 6 months
  • A Preceptor is a qualified and experienced practitioner whose role is to support the new nurse
  • You cannot fail Preceptorship
  • You might get proof of completion of a period of Preceptorship, but this is not always the case. If you do get something, keep it!
  • If you are going for job interviews, ask about the Preceptorship programme they offer. Check what it means for your contract, but don’t dismiss an opportunity.
  • Most Agencies ask for you to have completed your Preceptorship before they will register you. This just means they need you to have 6 months post-qualification experience.

And just to finish up on this topic, research has evidenced that having expert support in a dedicated time period allows nurses to provide effective patient-centered care confidently.

It has also been found that:

  • for new registrants, their confidence and competence are enhanced, leading them to feel valued and respected by their employer
  • for preceptors, the opportunity to develop their colleagues professionally, and act as a good role model, adds to their job satisfaction and helps towards the achievement of their career aspiration
  • patients/clients benefit as a result of being cared for by safe, competent and confident nurses who are professionally supported in their new role.

So it is well worth it!

What do you think?

An interesting article has been published from Nursing in Practice on CPD, Supervision and Preceptorship. The NMC proposals to increase the proportion of practice learning and procedural skills assessment provided through simulation have been met with opposition by respondents to its draft standards of education. The NMC states that:

A very large majority of respondents’ think there should be a cap on the maximum number of practice hours that can be completed in simulation.

What do you think? Should nurses be supervised by staff who are not NMC Registrants? What about the need for a period of post qualification consolidation and Preceptorship before being able to study nurse prescribing? Please let us know your thoughts or just get in touch with us.