Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

How to Grow Our Own: An Evaluation of Preceptorship in New Zealand Graduate Nurse Programmes

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

How to Grow Our Own: An Evaluation of Preceptorship in New Zealand Graduate Nurse Programmes

Article excerpt

New graduate programmes for nurses in their first year of practice have been provided informally for many years across health services internationally with varying effectiveness. Within the last decade these informal programmes have become more formalised and structured to meet the unique needs of the newly registered nurse (RN). Whether termed a 'new graduate' (New Zealand & United Kingdom), 'transition' (Australia) or 'residency' (United States), these programmes have developed from an identified need to provide support during the new graduate's first year of practice. International literature identifies that a supported first year of practice provides an opportunity for a new graduate to develop relationships that increase confidence and competence, improve job satisfaction and retention rates (Bratt & Felzer, 2011; Levett-Jones & FitzGerald, 2005; McCloughen & O'Brien, 2005; McClure & Hinshaw, 2002; Oermann & MoffittWolf, 1997; Reeves, 2004; Ronsten, Andersson, & Gustafsson, 2005). The American Future of Nursing Report (Institute of Medicine, 2011) reiterates that there is a need to better manage the transition from student to RN in order to reduce the high turnover rate and support the development of the nursing workforce into the future.

With these factors in mind, NETP programmes were established across all New Zealand District Health Boards (DHBs) in 2006. These programmes are jointly funded through central government and DHBs to provide support for new graduates, through preceptorship, supernumerary orientation periods and clinical study days. A longitudinal evaluation was commenced in 2007 to capture data on the effectiveness of NETP programmes. The aim of the evaluation was to provide information on lessons learnt, identify and share success factors and support the development of best practice nationally.

Preceptorship, as a significant support process within NETP programmes, was identified as a focus of the longitudinal evaluation. Preceptor support processes and their effectiveness within NETP programmes were evaluated as part of the overall research (Haggerty, McEldowney, Wilson, & Holloway, 2009). Background literature and the findings of the longitudinal evaluation provide the foundation for this discussion of preceptorship as it related to NETP programmes and RNs.


The terms 'preceptor' and 'mentor' are often used interchangeably in the literature and therefore both terms were used to search the literature. Although there was some role overlap, clear differences in the role and function were identified by many authors. Mentoring is seen as a relationship, which can be located in a variety of settings and is more of a relationship than a function that facilitates professional and personal growth (Ashurst, 2008; Butler & Felts, 2006; Firtko, Stewart, & Knox, 2005; North, Johnson, Knotts, & Whelan, 2006; Persaud, 2008; Wensel, 2006). Preceptorship, on the other hand, is mostly short term and clearly defined within the clinical practice environment (Barker, 2006; Firtko et al., 2005; Lennox, Skinner, & Foureur, 2008; Wensel, 2006). The preceptor undertakes clinical teaching and instructing (Ashurst, 2008; Persaud, 2008), and provides orientation and role socialisation (Persaud, 2008), and competence and confidence building (Wensel, 2006), along with facilitating proficiency (Dracup & Bryan-Brown, 2004). In the United Kingdom, the mentor's role includes teaching, assessing and supporting students in clinical practice (Kilcullen, 2007) and appears to be more closely aligned to the preceptor role in New Zealand.

Many authors discuss the notion that the success of new graduate programmes depends largely on the quality of precepting. Preceptorship is seen as key to improving the retention of new graduates (Bratt & Felzer, 2011; Butler & Felts, 2006; Dracup & Bryan-Brown, 2004; Hillman & Foster, 2011; Leners, Wilson, Connor, & Fenton, 2006; Pickens & Fargotstein, 2006; Reinsvold, 2008), as well as providing support, integration and role socialisation (Dracup & BryanBrown, 2004; Kilcullen, 2007; Reeves, 2004). …

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