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Precepting students

What is your role?

Knowledge can be a blessing or a curse. There you are, working away, demonstrating excellence, and someone taps you on the shoulder. They recognize your competence, they value it, but could you do more? Could you pass along your skills to others coming down the road? Can you take on more? What an offer! Today, we tip our hats to nurses who choose to preceptor students and talk about their valuable role in providing regulatory supervision.

Nurses act as preceptors for nursing students in many clinical settings. It’s an important professional role. Their clinical support and supervision allows students to practise and consolidate skills.

Nursing students in preceptorship experiences are ready for more independent practice and no longer need direct supervision by a clinical instructor. However, they still require supervision and for the College, that means regulatory supervision. Regulatory supervision is a process that protects the public by having an RN or NP authorize activities a student can perform.

But what does this mean for you, as a preceptor? It means greater responsibility and accountability for the authorization of student activities. Unlike a nurse who may briefly interact with a student, as a preceptor you play a greater role in providing regulatory supervision for the student over six to eight weeks. It also means you need to know what regulatory supervision entails. The College outlined this process in the Regulatory Supervision Practice Standard. Also see What is your role?, a supporting article.

As an example…

Robin is an RN on the surgical floor in an urban hospital. She agrees to be a preceptor to Sera, a fourth year nursing student, for the final practicum of Sera’s program. Robin and Sera set a time to meet in the cafeteria prior to starting the rotation. Robin’s been a preceptor before and finds this is helpful.

Over coffee, Robin asks Sera for an outline of the course requirements and competencies she’s learned in her program. Sera provides these and her skills checklist. She also shares her goals for the preceptorship and what she hopes to learn on the surgical unit. Specifically, Sera wants to learn skills related to IV management, venipuncture, and pre and post op assessment. Her goal is to manage care of four to five patients by the end of the rotation. She has saved a drug compendium on her smartphone and notes medications commonly used on the unit for pre and post-op care. Now that Robin has a good idea of Sera’s level of competence and confidence, the conversation shifts.

They discuss a plan for the activities Sera will demonstrate in the first week of the rotation and ideas for how more complex activities will be authorized when she is ready. Robin asks Sera to tell her whenever she is facing a new procedure, so they can review expectations together. They talk about moving from close supervision by Robin, to more independent practice. They agree to set aside time during each rotation to talk about Sera’s progress with her learning goals and the activities she would like to practice. Robin shares ideas for how she may authorize an activity, such as catheterization, to be performed under the oversight of another RN or LPN caring for a patient requiring this procedure. Robin tells Sera that she will intervene if she sees potential or actual risks to clients.

Over that first coffee, Robin and Sera have begun their preceptor-student relationship. This meeting paves the road for Sera. She feels the support and interest from Robin and looks forward to learning new skills with Robin’s guidance. As a preceptor, Robin leaves the meeting reflecting on her role in protecting the public as she provides regulatory supervision for activities Sera will perform.  

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