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Benefits of being a nurse preceptor

UOPX nurse practitioner students share the mutual benefits of preceptor-student relations and emphasize the need for support moving forward

When he was a University of Phoenix student, Peter Teboh noted that a student’s placement in the culminating clinical experience of their nursing program was dependent on preceptor availability. As busy as medical professionals are, not all are open to taking on the role, and lack of preceptor availability could potentially set students back in their progression.

Now a preceptor himself, Teboh emphasizes the importance of the role, especially as the need for active nurses and nurse educators continues to increase.[1] Even prior to COVID-19, hospitals across the country were facing a shortage of nurses, which can contribute to burnout, subpar patient care and higher morbidity rates.[2]

Nursing preceptors are a critical part of the nurse education process, and advocates like Teboh are encouraging the next wave of preceptors to consider the advantages, even if time is tight.

“The preceptor-student relationship benefits not only the student, but the practice and the profession as a whole,” said Teboh, a family nurse practitioner now in his fifth year as a preceptor.

Teboh approaches the experience as a learner as well as a teacher, open to dialogue with the students as they work together. Often this leads students to present him with research about possible diagnoses, which leads to further discussion and sometimes more research.

“I learn from them, and they learn from me as they begin to set their own standard of care,” said Teboh, who earned a master’s degree in nursing in 2015.  “It’s the concept of paying it forward and supporting the next generation of medical professionals.”

Why would a nurse become a preceptor?

Julie Longmire agrees that the preceptor role is mutually beneficial to participants and, ultimately, to the profession. She is a family nurse practitioner at a small office in Arizona—the same practice where she once completed her preceptorship. She is in her fourth year as a preceptor for students in University of Phoenix’s nursing programs, a role she said allows the provider to support the educational process and continue to learn alongside the student. Learning is a lifelong endeavor, and being part of the process ensures ongoing knowledge.

“As nurse practitioners, it is critical that we all work to be as good at this job as we can possibly be,” she said. “We won’t learn everything in school, so we need to stay involved and learn.”

Like Longmire, Crystal Hayes also serves as a preceptor at the site where she completed a preceptorship. Hayes sees participating as a preceptor as an extension of the goal she set for herself when she was in high school—to help others. In this role, she can support students in the same way she was once supported herself. Hayes recalls the value of learning from the experiences of others and the knowledge they had to offer.

“There are multiple ways to manage patients, so it was good to get different perspectives from various providers so I could create my own art of caring for patients,” Hayes said.

Hayes first served as a preceptor for three years in a hospital setting and is now doing the same in a clinical setting, precepting approximately 25 nurse practitioner students from various nurse practitioner programs. She approaches her role from the student perspective, remembering what it was like to be on the other end of the experience.

“It’s not just about the clinical part, but about how the patients are treated and the importance of listening to patients as well,” Hayes said.

She embraces the experience as an opportunity to cover topics and provide information but also allow the student an individualized experience to learn as much as possible in an environment that mirrors what their career could look like. And in the end, she said, the rewards for all are evident.

“It feels good to give back to the medical community in the form of educating new nurse practitioners,” said Hayes. “Precepting has also enabled me to create a great network of people in healthcare.”

For those considering whether serving as a preceptor is a good fit, Teboh recommended pondering two questions: First: How did you feel as a student needing a preceptor? Second: How can you use that experience to help others and reduce the stress for future nurse practitioners?

Having a clear idea of what type of experience you want to provide for the student should be top of mind, and if you can fit the role into your responsibilities, he recommends it.

“Being a preceptor gives you an opportunity to reflect back and give back,” Teboh said. “A preceptor today could be a colleague and a friend tomorrow. The goal is to get them ready today.”