Because we’re not nurses, we can only imagine how frightening it must be for a new nurse with little clinical experience to face a patient and their family and be expected to function as a fully prepared registered nurse.
How does a nurse’s limited experience and fear evolve into expertise and confidence, one may ask? Preceptors! Preceptors are the key to a smooth transition to competence for students, new grads, or experienced nurses moving from one specialty to another.
Kick recognition up a notch
The difference preceptors make can’t be underestimated. Unfortunately, their labors often go unappreciated and unrecognized. In the nearly 24 years The DAISY Foundation has been partnering with healthcare organizations to honor extraordinary care, we have rarely read a DAISY Award nomination for a preceptor that shines a light on the above-and-beyond work they do to mold, shape, and nurture new nurses.
In addition to their own patient workload, preceptors are highly competent nurses who are paired with students or transitioning nurses to ensure they have the clinical competencies needed to care for patients and their families. Preceptors demonstrate currency in their clinical practice and use evidence-based interventions to model for their preceptees. They build on foundational knowledge learned in nursing school and stand by their preceptees as they apply their academic learning to clinical practice.
Good preceptors are encouraging, communicative, and supportive of those they are guiding – ready to step in if needed, but helping them learn to “fly” on their own.
Ensuring that patients and family members feel comfortable with a student nurse or new grad who is helping to take care of them is another part of the preceptor’s role. As preceptor Natalie Parker, RN, an ER nurse at Adventist Health Portland, Oregon said, “Some patients think it’s great that they are getting two nurses for the price of one. Others are less comfortable,” she said. “So it’s important that they know I am right there, wanting them to have a positive experience with us.”
Besides rarely receiving recognition, often preceptors are not paid a premium for the additional work they accept. So why would a nurse take on this added responsibility?
Being a nurturer is gratifying
Focus groups conducted among preceptors by Versant, in partnership with DAISY in March 2023, revealed how fulfilling the role is. Ensuring that young nurses get the training they wished they had received when they were starting out and learning from their students are two of the reasons preceptors said serving in this role “fills their cup.”
Watching their preceptees grow from nervous, anxious first timers to confident clinicians is rewarding. Preceptors enjoy sharing with less experienced nurses the tips and tricks that can make nursing life easier and patient care more satisfying — testimony that the adage “nurses eat their young” isn’t always true. A couple of the focus group participants said partnering with new graduates and seeing nursing through their eyes helped bring back the joy in nursing that these preceptors felt before the pandemic changed their world.
Experienced nurses are typically asked by their nurse managers to precept, and while they may receive training to do so, often they do not receive additional compensation. Given the staffing challenges our country faces, it has become increasingly important for preceptors to know their dedication is highly valued and they are making a significant difference in their organization’s care of patients and families.
We strongly encourage the nearly 6,000 organizations that partner with The DAISY Foundation to urge their preceptees to nominate their preceptors for The DAISY Award. The meaningful recognition expressed in preceptees’ nominations will remind them why they are taking on this added responsibility.
Nominations also reveal who the most inspiring preceptors are in an organization, who should be asked to continue in the role, and who may be less equipped to serve it well. Now is the time to share DAISY gratitude with preceptors for their above-and-beyond work that impacts the future of care in an organization and throughout our health system.
Do you wish your organization partnered with The DAISY Foundation or had an internal recognition program that honored nurses — or both? Comment below and talk to your fellow nurses about this topic. Download the Nurse.com social networking app.