Preceptorship: Part 1

What is preceptorship?

When you start your final year as a student nurse you’ll probably be aware of just how soon you’ll be beginning life as a qualified nurse and you’ll be starting to look for jobs. There is so much to consider; do you want to work in the NHS or private sector? Community or hospital based? What specialities interest you? Do you want a rotation job to gain qualified experience in a range of areas before you settle down or do you have a speciality you have a burning passion for that you want to go into straight away? These are all very personal decisions that no blog is going to be able to tell you how to make. The aim of this series of blogs however is to try to bring together some information and thoughts about preceptorships to help with some of the more general aspects of applying for your first job.

Preceptorships are defined as a period of support and guidance provided by employers to newly qualified registered practitioners with the aim of refining skills, developing confidence and creating a firm foundation of practice under the supervision of an experienced practitioner (NHS Employers 2017). Although it is recommended by both the NMC and RCN for all newly qualified nurses to have a preceptorship period, it is not compulsory in the private sector although many employers will offer a preceptorship.

As a preceptee (the person undertaking the preceptorship) you’ll be given a named preceptor within your clinical area. This person is often a senior nurse (sister/charge nurse) with experience of mentorship as well as a good knowledge of your clinical area, though there are no formal skills required for being a preceptor. Many people who go on to work in the same area as they had their management placement have their mentor as their preceptor, the supportive and educational relationship having already been developed. There are also clinical educators who support both you and your preceptor so make sure you are completing the relevant competencies or organising training sessions to aid you in your professional development.

There are some standards which must be met by all employers offering a preceptorship but there are also differences in the skills that are included as compulsory or optional depending on who is employing you and also which area you will be working in, for example in my trust IV administration is part of the main preceptorship programme but phlebotomy & cannulation are additional skills which you have to go on extra courses for, I did these within 8 months but other colleagues I qualified with who are on other wards have yet to do them at 18 months qualified.

Often you’ll be offered a series of study days over a period of 6 to 12 months, these will cover skills pertinent to your field and may involve MDT working or simulation based learning. It’s a good idea when looking for a preceptorship job to look at what training will be available to you and see whether this fits with your hopes/expectations of newly qualified nursing.

Many resources are available to help you make decisions about your preceptorship but on a local level try reaching out to mentors on placement who are recently qualified or speak to the clinical education team for the area you want to work in, they will hopefully be able to give you information about the preceptorships available in that department. If you are moving to a new area then contact them by phone or email to ask for information, when you look at a job advert online there is often a named point of contact who will assist you in understanding what is being offered in their preceptorship.

Another great resource I used is a downloadable document from the RCN called Students: thinking about your career (RCN 2016), it has advice for all stages of applying for your first job and is easily digestible.
Once you’ve taken a good look at the jobs available to you and made your mind up which jobs you’d like to apply for then the next stages are filling in the application form and attending an interview. Have a read of the preceptorship part 2 blog for some hints and tips for this daunting but also exciting process.

(Debs Cooper – NQN) 

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