Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Nursing Preceptors and Meaning Making

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Nursing Preceptors and Meaning Making

Article excerpt

Nurse preceptorship is a short-term relationship between a student as novice and an experienced staff person as the preceptor. The preceptor provides individual attention to the student's learning needs and gives feedback regarding performance, the student's independence in making decisions, setting priorities, managing time, and caring for patients (Billings & Halstead, 2012). The nurse preceptor has been described in the literature as a nurse with a multifunctional role as teacher, counselor, supporter, and role model to new practicing nurses (Bain, 1996; Bott, Mohide, & Lawlor, 2011; Usher, Nolan, Reser, Owens, & Tollefson, 1999). The preceptor role has emerged in various occupations areas as a means to help bridge the gap between formal education and practice.

We explored the lived experiences of nurses who have transitioned to a nurse preceptor role and their meaning making from these experiences. Their growth and challenges in the workplace were explored, as well as their perspectives of preceptorship preparation for the role. Much of the preceptor research has been aimed at improving the effectiveness of the nurse as preceptor (such as Omanski, 2010; Pickins & Fargotstein, 2007; Piemme, Tack, & Evans, 1986), whereas other researchers have explored the transition to practice from the lens of graduate nurses in the preceptorship relationship (Nicol & Young, 2007; Mills & Mullin, 2008). Although some limited research has included clinical nurses' perspectives of their transition to the preceptor role (Alspach, 2008; Duffy, 2009), such research has been incomplete in the examination of how these nurses make meaning from their experiences.

History and Practice of the Preceptorship

Preceptorship can be traced to the apprenticeship model, and it is not unique to nursing as similar models are used in law enforcement, teacher education, architecture, and engineering (Raschick & Maypole, 1998). To transition graduate nurses successfully to the workforce, the preceptorship model was created to acculturate new graduates into the profession and plan learning experiences for them in the clinical area (Dagle, 2001). The literature points out that the role of preceptor is not merely a mentor (Armitage & Burnard, 1991; McClure & Black, 2013); however, some traditional elements of a mentoring relationship exist in preceptorships, such as the preceptor modeling the "roles, skills, and virtues" of the profession (Mott, 2002, p. 15).

The process of preceptor selection is mixed, with criteria for such selection not being consistent or explicit (Altman, 2006; Mohide et al., 2012; Myrick & Barrett, 1994). The preceptor role demands a unique set of teaching skills and expertise that is mindful of, yet goes beyond clinical expertise and relational skills (Paton, Thompson-Isherwood, & Thirsk, 2009). As one may imagine, not all experienced nurses may make good clinical preceptors. Despite the teaching nature of the preceptor role, teaching competence and experience are often not considered during preceptor selection (Finger & Pape, 2002). Lewis (1986) believed that while preceptor expertise and knowledge are undoubtedly essential to a successful preceptorship relationship, other features such as good communication skills, honesty, organizational ability, and a genuine concern for the preceptee have also been deemed important. Despite all the previously mentioned research, it is unfortunate that in many cases preceptors are chosen solely based on their availability (Lockwood-Rayerson, 2003).

The typical preceptorship dyad runs between 6 and 12 weeks (Sandau & Helm, 2010). Myriad forms of nurse preceptor training programs exist, including face-to-face and online formats. Industry wide standards and universal guidelines, however, are not available for preparing nurses to become preceptors. This vacuum is unfortunate, because preceptors would benefit from standardized guidance to help them perform well in their new role. …

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