Being a newly qualified nurse can be both exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.
Your early days as a qualified nurse can influence the development of your professional career. Even though you will have spent years training to become a nurse, you will still have lots to learn.
So, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the profession for just a week or a decade, there’s always some new knowledge to discover and try first-hand.
What is preceptorship and why is it essential in nursing?
The Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) defines preceptorship as the period when new practitioners receive guidance and support to transition from student to successful professional.
It is a programme designed so that new nurses can achieve the required competencies; essentially, they must demonstrate that they have the knowledge and capability to become a nurse.
Studies have also shown that preceptorship tends to:
- Boost the recruitment and retention of nurses
- Improve patient care
- Reduce sickness
- Produce confident nurses with matching skills
- Increase morale and job satisfaction
There are clear reasons and benefits for why both medical organisations and nurses are motivated to pursue preceptorship.
What can you expect from your preceptorship programme?
The preceptorship programmes that are available in hospitals and medical facilities may slightly differ from one another. However, the main objective is always the same – to help you become a better nurse. Senior nurses will supervise you and help you during this transitional phase. You can also expect that a group of five to six seniors will support you although only one person will:
- Sign off your competencies
- Regularly meet with you
- Assist in case of any issues
The role of these seniors is to guide you in honing your behaviours, skills and values as a health professional.
A typical preceptorship programme usually comprises training sessions that cover various topics and areas. For example, you could have sessions on patients’ diet, clinical risk, infection control or operational safeguards. You are also likely to receive helpful career tips for nurses.
You may have to undergo mandatory training first before you are allowed to join a trust. You will also probably be expected to participate in group reflection sessions. These are often opportunities to meet and interact with other preceptors and professionals.
You will be provided with a workbook in which you must complete each section or subject. One such topic could be risk management, where there will be multiple competencies that you need to get signed off. For example, you will need to demonstrate that you possess the ability to date your records accurately. After you have accomplished this task, you will discuss the subject with your supervisor and present some evidence. Then, you can both sign the competency.
Find out more about preceptorships
For nursing students, the best sources of information for preceptorship programmes are your potential future employers. You may want to ask about:
- The kind of support they offer
- The duration of the programme
How long do these programmes last?
Often, the preceptorship can take between six and twelve months. In fact, while you will be expected to complete it within one year, some preceptorships can take even longer. The duration can depend on the programme’s structure. For example, a monthly meet-up across the whole year will mean it is unlikely that you will complete the training in just a month or two. As you will also have a fixed set of obligatory sessions, it will simply not be possible to complete the preceptorship early.
Feedback from nurses who have completed the preceptorship programme
Many nurses who have undertaken the preceptorship have remarked how they found compiling evidence for their competencies to be a time-consuming task. Their advice is to meet up with your seniors as often as you can, especially if you are on different shifts. During your meet-up, you should scrutinise the collected evidence and discuss the related issues. If everything is satisfactory, the seniors will be able to sign off the competencies.
Many nurses believe that preceptorship has enabled them to acquire more knowledge and skills than their three years of training. The programme is also a reminder that being qualified as a nurse should not prevent you from extending your learning. After the preceptorship, there will be:
- Yearly appraisals
- Clinical supervisions
- Training sessions
- Revalidation every three years
- Evidence-based practice
All these additional training sessions and reviews will help you grow professionally and emotionally. This is also a way of taking in new knowledge and discarding old ideas.
Nursing training programmes such as preceptorships are also excellent opportunities for peer support and networking. They reinforce the notion that nurses should support one another. Moreover, new nurses can get to know the various managers and personnel in their workplace.
Preceptorship programmes are valuable and beneficial initiatives for newly qualified nurses. They enable them to receive much-needed guidance and insight from people who have had first-hand experiences. If you are new to the healthcare profession, the preceptorship can help you gauge your competency as a nurse. In addition, it can also enable you to obtain the necessary skills and experience to prepare you for any imaginable scenario you may encounter in the field.