Preceptor Preparation Online Course - Advanced

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Essential Competencies of Preceptors: A Focus on Working with APRN Students

Module 1: Preceptor Roles and Responsibilities


Precepting and mentoring are terms that are often used interchangeably. There are many areas of overlap. It is important to understand the differences between these before we can move on and focus on preceptor roles and responsibilities.

The use of preceptors is a formal process often used to facilitate orientation to a new environment, or a new role. This can include introduction to a unit, review of policies and procedures unique to that environment, and focuses primarily on skills and competency for practice within a particular setting. The role of the preceptor may include being a role model, educator and socializer as well as a resource person for the preceptee. There is a 'supervisory' component to this role. The formal precepting relationship ends with the completion of orientation or in the case with students, when the specialty rotation or term ends.

Mentoring generally occurs after an orientation period has been completed. It can also occur at any time within a career. The focus shifts from task orientation to personal and professional growth. While precepting is formal, mentoring can be formally or informally structured. Mentors are support systems that encourage growth and development and can act in a range of capacities from advisors to cheerleaders. There is no direct supervisory role. The mentors' actions are based on what the mentee needs, rather than what competencies are needed as in a preceptee/preceptor relationship. The mentorship relationship can have specific time limits (formal) or can be open-ended (informal), there is no formal endpoint and can become life-long (*Health Alliance of MidAmerica, 2009).

Preceptors work in a variety of clinical and academic settings. Preceptors are used by academic graduate nursing programs to work one on one with students in the clinical setting. In most clinical graduate programs (clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, etc.), the preceptor model is the primary clinical teaching strategy. This could occur at different times during the course of study and vary between programs.

According to Gaberson and Oermann (2010), there are advantages and disadvantages for both the preceptor and the clinical agency when APRNs precept graduate nursing students. Issues for the preceptor include how to balance providing meaningful learning experiences for the student, while at the same time providing safe, quality care to patients. While having a student to assist with tasks may be helpful to the clinician, many activities take more time due to the need to explain and ensure understanding of the learner. With many graduate nursing programs requiring preceptors, APRNs have to adjust to different faculty teaching styles, levels of learners, and expectations of the clinical course. The preceptor may require support from colleagues, as well as educators, to support the learning needs of the graduate student.

These advantages and disadvantages include needs related to learning experiences, time management, safety, clinical site concerns, teaching, learning styles and overall expectations. These have been summarized in Table 1.




Issues for the preceptor

Issues for the student

Learning experiences

Provide meaningful learning.

Differing levels of learners.

Learning needs vary.


Providing safe, quality care to assigned patients.

Ensuring learner safety.

Ensuring learner safety, while caring for patients.

Clinical site concerns

Differing students' needs, such as those that are specialty specific (i.e. critical care, geriatric, acute care, including rotation specific needs in anesthesia, such as Pediatrics, OB, L&D).

May require additional facility support and/or additional staffing.

Multiple faculty/preceptors.

Differing faculty/preceptor teaching styles. Meeting students' learning objectives, which can vary from preceptor to preceptor.


Activities may take more time due to teaching and validation of understanding by the students.

Assisting with physical tasks may expedite or impede care.


Different faculty teaching styles.

Student learning styles vary.


Vary from preceptor to preceptor.

Students may not clearly understand learning objectives.

Varying expectations by preceptors.

The following video clip addresses elements of the preceptorship that neither the new preceptor nor preceptee may know prior to the first experience:

This module provides an overview of the preceptor role. It begins with an examination of how the nurse's personal philosophy about clinical teaching guides the preceptor experience, the various roles of the preceptor, and the importance of collaboration with the student's faculty member. Finally, an overview of planning and initiating the preceptorship experience is explored.


Upon completion of this module the learner will be able to:

  • Examine personal philosophy of clinical teaching.
  • Explain the use of adult learning principles in preceptorships.
  • Identify the characteristics of Benner's Novice to Expert model of nursing competency.
  • Describe various role responsibilities of the preceptor for the nursing student
  • Discuss importance of coordination of learning activities with course faculty to facilitate student learning.
  • Describe strategies to facilitate a positive learning environment for the nursing student.


To answer each question select your choice, then press 'Submit'. After answering each question press the 'Forward' button on the player at the bottom right-hand corner.

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