Thursday, September 16, 2010

Precepting Students

I've precepted many NP students during the years and usually had pretty rewarding experiences. (There was that one student that just didn't get it...I guess I can save that one and how I handled it for another post!) I like to think of precepting as a two-way street: my student is getting the hands on experience of patient care with guidance while I can further hone my precepting skills. Precepting a student is not simply telling them how to treat a condition or how to prescribe a medication. It is helping that student critically think to formulate differential diagnoses and treatment plans. Precepting can often be overlooked as part of the education and training of health professionals yet it is a critical part of acquiring the necessary skill set of patient care.

I think back to my experiences as a student and have found supportive clinicians that helped to shape me into the clinician I am today (I was precepted by a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, an OB/GYN, a family nurse practitioner and a emergency department physician). I wish I had more time with a nurse practitioner preceptor but one simply wasn't available to me. I believe that made it harder to find my identity as a NP since I had to constantly bring in the nursing perspective melded with the medical piece. However, that enabled me to create that identity from scratch and make it my own.

Now I am curious. As a clinician (MD, NP, PA, etc) do you precept students? What do you look for in a preceptee? Do you feel that it is your professional responsibility to help train the next generation of providers? As a student, what qualities do you look for in a preceptor? What were some examples of good or bad experiences?

I'd love to hear your feedback.


Amy Sellers said...

As a current preceptor in the ICU setting (for bedside nurses) and a future NP student (starting in September 2011), I can't agree with you more. Precepting is so important and I think that many preceptors take it too lightly - many people seem to look at it as an opportunity for the nurse to "shadow" them and see the routine of the hospital. But, in all actuality, precepting is about nurturing critical thinking skills and giving someone the skills to practice successfully on their own.

Personally, I enjoy preceptors who give the impression that they enjoy their job and want you to be successful. They should be encouraging, but also give firm feedback if something is not being done to standard.

I can't wait to start my NP program next year :)

Stephen Ferrara, NP said...

Thanks for the feedback Amy and good luck on your journey to becoming an NP!


Anonymous said...

Helping furture students are very important. I am currently a FNP student. My first day I was very scared. I have been a staff nurse for ten years and why on my first day as a FNP student I was scared I have no clue but I was. Thanks to my preceptor I was ok. It has gotten better and I am starting to feel better. Shaowing is nice for the first day then forget it. You never learn you need to get your hands dirty and learn. Thanks silvia M.

Anonymous said...

I've had positive and negative experiences being a preceptee and a mentor. Had one new FNP as a preceptor and her knowledge base was inadequate... I had to ask to change preceptors. Personally learned more from MD preceptors than NP preceptors; had a great PA preceptor/mentor as a new grad.
I have precepted a few students myself - in general a great experience, but had one older RN to NP student who had minimal computer skills, so she was a major hinderance as I had to teach her how to use the computer. I see EHR/EMR implementation as being a big barrier in the future - won't be possible to know how to access all the different types of EMRs, especially if you are rotating to different facilities/offices.
Cardio NP

Anonymous said...

I have also had very supportive clinicians who have shaped me into the NP I am today, including NPs, PAs, and physicians. They each brought a unique perspective and helped me find my own voice in the NP world. I have served as a preceptor in the past and look forward to a large influx of NP students into our Emergency Department this coming summer. I do feel it is my professional responsibility to train future NPs. I have been researching NP preceptorship to improve my skills and appreciate your interest as well.

FNP student said...

As a FNP student now in my second clinical rotation, I would like to say thank you to all of those who have precepted students. I know it is something that is extra work for you. In my opinion, the most important thing in a preceptor is willingness to teach, and also to listen. I tend to ask questions a lot, and one of the preceptors I had got defensive thinking I was challenging her, but the other is very willing to answer. The process is probably stressful for both, but it should be a positive one. I look forward soem year to being able to help a new generation of NPs learn, when it is my turn to be the preceptor, and I will try not to forget what it feels like to be the student.

Joyce said...

I am in a family Health Nurse Practitioner Program and in need of a preceptor in NY. Can you offer any help? Thanks

Stephen Ferrara, NP said...


Check out the Nurse Practitioner Association of New York State ( They are a wonderful resource for matching students to preceptors. The student member rate is very affordable and pays for itself in the benefits of finding preceptors,CEUs etc.

You can contact Tom Nicotera (tnicotera at thenpa. org) for more info.

Hope that helps some. What part of NY will you need a preceptor?

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Lana said...

I am writing to ask if you or other NPs/MDs , you might know, would be willing to precept a student from TWU FNP program .

I am currently a student at TWU Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Dallas campus. I am going to start my clinical in January of 2012 and will have 4 semesters of clinical total.
I am currently working in the Internal Medicine Clinic supporting physicians .Unfortunately we are not allowed o have clinical at our workplace. I am pretty much familiar with the clinic flow, patient population, acute and chronic disease management , ordering tests, and refilling medications, performing rapid, refills, phone triage, etc. Any information about preceptorship would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

I have been searching for an FNP preceptor for 3 months now, to no avail. I have had nothing but phones slammed in my ear or no response at all. When I think of it, I have never been so rejected for anything before in my life!

It is puzzling to me to see my future colleagues display such an aversion to guiding and mentoring the next generation of FNPs. Who taught and mentored these NPs?

Personally, I am pretty stunned by the apparent lack of personal integrity, professionalism, and commitment to guidance and fostering of competency among their peers. I have never turned down a student in all my ten years of nursing. I can only assume that this must translate into a lack of patient care and education as well? For why not?

Why is the precepting component of advanced practice nursing grossly lacking (particularly in the southwest where I reside)? I believe that an NP who is sought after enough to have students routinely learn from them must be viewed in a more respected and positive light by their peers reciprocally, no? This poses an opportunity for you as well, no?

Help me out here.