When registered nurses (RNs) begin their educational journey to become family nurse practitioners (FNPs), they need clinical preceptors – experienced professionals who serve as role models – to guide the way. Aspiring FNPs typically require hundreds of supervised clinical hours to master their new role, and preceptors provide information, reassurance and support.
Most of the leading nursing schools ask RNs to locate a preceptor to complete requirements for clinical hours. At the same time, the increase in RNs seeking master’s degrees in nursing, including an online master’s in nursing, makes finding an FNP preceptor challenging. Just like the shortage of nurses nationwide, the preceptor shortage has put them at a premium. Preceptors are essential to quality advancement in nursing care.
“NPs are uniquely positioned to fill the need for access to care for millions of U.S. citizens. Studies show NPs provide quality care with patient outcomes equal to or better than physicians. That quality cannot be maintained with subpar clinical education,” researchers Lindsay F. Davis and Amy E. Fathman said in the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice. “Current practice suggests that the future of NP represented healthcare depends on dedicated preceptors willing to personally invest in the education of students.”
FNP programs have a variety of reasons why students are required to work with a preceptor. Multiple studies have shown that preceptors improve nurse outcomes by exposing them to real-world situations. Students enrolled in Duquesne University’s online master’s in nursing FNP program are required to take 750 precepted hours, which provides ample opportunity for practice, training and reflection on new skills.
Tips for Finding an FNP Preceptor
Leigh Anne Rethage, BSN, clinical coordinator for online programs at Duquesne University School of Nursing, said nurses can take several approaches to finding a preceptor. Rethage and others offered these suggestions:
Start with networking
Reach out to social and professional contacts, including family and friends, to inquire about possible opportunities. Use everyday experiences, such as going to the doctor or chatting with a colleague, as a possible preceptor networking opportunity.
Ask at work
Since FNP students who need preceptors already work in clinical settings, they should use the opportunity to speak with their organization’s human resources department. Some medical facilities will work with employees to connect them with possible preceptors.
Join a local nurse practitioner organization
Nurse practitioner associations nationwide work to promote NP practice and support local NPs. Some keep databases of practitioners who will precept. Others provide outlets for students and preceptors to connect. For example, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners hosts an online community that allows students and preceptors to make connections.
Use social media
Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and any other social media platforms to solicit a preceptor. Ask social media contacts to spread the word.
Prepare a packet of information
Information packets that introduce students to possible preceptors are an opportunity to showcase talent. In American Nurse Today, Ginny Moore and Sharon Fleming, both DNPs, said a preceptor packet should include a resume, cover letter, a brief overview of the program requirements and student objectives, information about required clinical hours and experiences, evaluation process details and benefits to the preceptor.
“For example, if you were referred by someone, such as a classmate or a current patient who had positive experiences, include that information. And if the organization’s mission statement resonates with you, include that as well,” the DNPs said in “Landing a clinical practicum preceptor.” “Remember this information and share it again during the interview process.”
Hit the road
Rather than just calling medical facilities to inquire about possible preceptorships, make an effort to go in person and make contacts, Rethage said. Students who have tried cold calling do not fare as well, she said.
“We really encourage our students to dress up and bring resumes to the actual sites,” Rethage said. “Speak with the practice manager or administrative assistant and schedule some time to speak with their providers. Treat it like an interview. We see a lot more success that way.”
Begin looking early
Depending on the scenario, the process for obtaining a preceptor can take weeks and months. Students should begin their search about a year in advance of their clinicals. At Duquesne University, the last two courses in the online FNP program — Foundations of Family and Individual Care I and Foundations of Family and Individual Care II – are clinical hours intensive, requiring 225 hours for each.
Avoid large medical chains
Many of the hospital chains have established affiliations with local universities and nursing schools, so they are reluctant to enter into new agreements. Seek options in rural communities and facilities that reach underserved or diverse populations.
Rethage also said students who have problems finding preceptors can turn to their university for help. At Duquesne University, Rethage helps students locate preceptors through the school’s nationwide network of medical professionals and healthcare experts. Duquesne University also utilizes its exclusive network of providers who are often eager to give back: alumni.
When Students Become Teachers
MSN graduates understand the process of earning the degree, so they often make the best preceptors. Tom G. Bartol, NP, said precepting provides opportunities for both the student and the teacher.
“We give back to our profession, including to those who helped us to become who we are, by sharing our knowledge, passion, and skills. Of greater importance, it is an opportunity for us to grow in our own vocation as NPs,” Bartol said in “Precepting NP Students – Who Needs It? We All Do.” “We are helping nurture the future change agents and movers and shakers of our profession. These students need us, but we really need them.”
Indeed, precepting helps both the preceptor and preceptee. After earning an FNP, RNs can help aspiring FNPs answer the question of why get a master’s in nursing and help them find their preceptors.
Duquesne University online master’s in nursing students seeking a preceptor have the advantage of the university’s wide-ranging resources and expansive alumni base.
About Duquesne University’s Online MSN Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner
Duquesne University’s online FNP program prepares APRNs to work alongside physicians, in private practice and as a preceptor. The coursework is presented entirely online so nurses can continue their careers and personal lives while pursuing their educational goals.
RNs who have already earned an MSN degree have the opportunity to advance their education and career by earning an FNP Post-Master’s Certificate.
The online MSN FNP program prepares APRNs for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCP) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Family Nurse Practitioner certification examinations. For more information, contact Duquesne University today.
Clinical education of nurse practitioner students: Identifying incentives, barriers, and working models to develop sustainable preceptorships: Journal of Nursing Education and Practice
Use of Preceptors Improves Nurse Outcomes: Wolters Kluwer
Duquesne University: Clinical Sites for Online Programs: Duquesne University
2019/2020 Clinical Preceptors: Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners
Landing a clinical practicum preceptor: American Nurse Today
Precepting NP Students — Who Needs It? We All Do: Medscape