NQN · Preceptorship

Preceptorship Part 3- Experiences of Preceptorship.

When you’re looking for a NQN job or if you’re waiting to start a job you’ve already secured then there can be a certain level of anxiety about your upcoming preceptorship. I can certainly say that had a creeping level of uneasiness as I was waiting for my exam board & my NMC registration letter to come through.  

I picked my job based on the factors that meant the most to me; a trust I knew, an area I always wanted to work in and a preceptorship programme that had lots of great opportunities. I wanted to get stuck in and had heard some good things from people in cohorts above me who had gone through the same preceptorship…But I’d also heard of some people’s frustrations.  

I think it’s good sense to realise the perfect job and the perfect transition between student nurse and qualified nurse is rare, you’re going to hit snags, you’re going to feel frustrated at times and there’s a possibility you’re going to want to scream/rant/cry/quit. HOWEVER, there are so many positive aspects to these hiccups too, it may be frustrating at the time but with a certain amount of positivity you’re able to change those snags into development opportunities, for yourself and also for your employers if you feed back to the clinical education teams. 

I reached out on twitter and in person to talk to some nurses who have qualified in the last few years, I asked them to tell me about the positive and negative aspects of their preceptorship programmes and in this blog I’ve collated them (anonymised) to hopefully give you a view of what their experiences have been. 

Several people said the biggest negative experience of their preceptorship was finding protected time for filling out their workbooks, mandatory e-learning or assessments, the shifts were so busy that it was hard do them while at work and some aspects needed access to trust computers or talking to their preceptor meaning they had to stay late or come in on days off to get these things completed. 

For a few NQNs there was an element of uncertainty to their preceptorship, some things were set out clearly, but timescales for completing their preceptorship or skill clusters included as part of the programme varied ward by ward and this led to some confusion & anxiety over what was expected of them.  

Some also said that the senior nurses in the clinical area did not understand the need for completing the paperwork, thinking that learning by doing & getting “stuck in” to the ward routine would be a better way to transition to NQN life, this led to some feelings of being pulled in different directions between the clinical team and the education team. 

And lastly (for the negatives) unfortunately some of our NQN colleagues weren’t given the protected supernumerary time promised to them, they felt like they were thrown in at the deep end managing upwards of 10 patients on their own very soon after starting on the ward. Those who replied with these comments said they could see it was due to overall staffing issues on the unit but that it made the transition really tough, especially if support from the senior nurses was less than optimal. 

Moving on to the positives… And there are SO many!! 

A lot of the NQNs who responded said that their preceptorship helped them feel set up for their role within their clinical area, this is from NQNs who’d had placement in their new workplace and also those who’d never been there before. They said that it gave them a firm foundation to stand on while navigating their new position. 

For some the accessibility of their preceptorship teams was a huge plus factor. Not only would the educators supporting them come round to the clinical areas to work with NQNs but there were also emails, phone calls, social media accounts and group messages to help NQNs feel connected, supported and valued. 

There was similarly high praise for the support coming from the preceptors and senior nurses within the clinical areas also, although there were sometimes time constraints or staffing pressures many NQNs said they felt their Charge Nurses/Sisters in their area were really invested in helping them with their preceptorship, offering clinical and pastoral support to the new team members. 

Many have said their preceptorship package was very comprehensive covering lots of areas, having MDT working or training to better integrate into the wider clinical teams and, even at a NQN level, highlighting the opportunities to develop a long and rewarding career with other training opportunities available post preceptorship. 

And lastly they said that the support of other NQNs, either through preceptorship forums facilitated by the clinical educators, or more informal meeting of colleagues during training sessions as part of the preceptorship programme was really helpful, knowing that others were enjoying the same things as you, making similar progress and/or coming up against the same frustrations made them think that things were developing well. 

I hope that these experiences of our NQN colleagues have been useful to you and that they have not made you more nervous for your preceptorships. For the negative experiences some have had I think that fore-warned is fore-prepared and knowing some of the pitfalls can help you to navigate around them successfully. The positive experiences, well I really hope they show that there are some fantastic preceptorship programmes out there where the development of new nurses is seen as a priority and you can rely on the support offered during your NQN period. 

Good luck to all those starting their NQN jobs soon, I am sure you will be brilliant! 

 Debs Cooper (@DebsCooper131)

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