What makes a successful preceptor training program

An effective preceptor is essential to a nurse’s clinical development, medication accuracy, job contentment and the organization’s overall retention rate. Put simply, a preceptor affects the bottom line of your facility.

So, what makes for a good preceptor? We asked a group of nurse leaders from across the country at Avant Healthcare Professionals CNO Roundtable. The answer was the willingness and passion to be a preceptor must be demonstrated.

You may think a skilled and seasoned nurse would be a great candidate to orient new nurses. However, all the skills required to teach someone, such as patience and communication, are equally as critical as having strong clinical skills.

Let’s say the nurse in mind has both qualities but shows no interest in teaching others. Before you rule them out, try to understand their hesitation. Perhaps, they believe the patient assignment is too heavy to truly support a new nurse. Would offering a pay differential for preceptors encourage them to want to be a preceptor? Nurse leadership should also establish framework and expectations for this role. This will help your management team identify top candidates for the preceptor program.

The nurse leaders at the CNO Roundtable all agreed that preceptors should have a different caseload that allows them to acclimate the new hire appropriately. If a preceptor is being offered financial incentive to take on the role, their pay differential should influence their job responsibilities.

The preceptor training program

Before the nurse becomes a preceptor, they should go through an initial training program to ensure they are prepared. The objectives of the training program will be dependent on the goals of the nurse leaders. Establishing your goals for the preceptor training with your nurse management team is important.

Based on feedback from the CNO Roundtable, a good preceptor training program should include:

• a mix of independent learning modules, such as webinars that serve as refreshers for clinical skills
• a review of hospital/unit policy and procedures
• a course on teaching strategies to ensure the preceptee has learned the content,
• self-assessment evaluation of leadership styles (so the preceptor understands what type of manager he/she is)
• adaptive training (once the nurses knows what management style they have, they need to know how to adapt their style to different personalities of nurses they orient)
• a training session in conflict resolution
• a training session on cultural diversity
• rotation of specific skill training (that way all your preceptors will be skilled in several areas of practice)
• refresher classes should be taken every six months to a year after completion of the initial training program

Post-training

After the training program and once the preceptor has orientated a few nurses, they should be surveyed on the effectiveness of the program. The preceptor will be able to evaluate the program concerning how well it prepared them to train other nurses.

"We keep the preceptor with the preceptee throughout the orientation. If they're not picking up on it as quickly, we put them in a refresher class. I have one on one meetings with them to find out what we're doing wrong and right." - A CNO from an acute care hospital in Florida

Nurse managers should check in with the preceptors on a weekly basis to assess them. A preceptor program is only successful if the preceptee felt that they were trained well. Leadership should gain feedback from new hires to evaluate the preceptor, and coach the preceptor as needed.

"We require preceptors to go through 8-hour training. Every month I have a new hire breakfast, and I pull any of those new hires with HR, educators, recruiters, and ask them to tell us about the full onboarding process to gain feedback on our preceptors." – A CNO from a large hospital in the Southeast

Takeaways

A good preceptor training program should be tweaked and updated annually to reflect current nursing trends and changes within the organization. Feedback from both the preceptor and the preceptee is your best tool for evaluating the success of your preceptor training program. It's beneficial to offer nurses financial incentives to take on the role of a preceptor. Although it may seem costly, your preceptors directly influence the financial stability of your hospital.

What are some tactics you include in your preceptor training program? We would love to hear your feedback.

About Avant Healthcare Professionals:

Need nurses? Avant Healthcare Professionals (AvantHealthcare.com) is the premier staffing specialist for internationally educated registered nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists. Avant helps clients improve the continuity of their care, fill hard-to-find specialties, and increase patient satisfaction, revenue, and HCAHPS scores. Avant is a Joint Commission accredited staffing agency and founding member of the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR).

About the Author:

Shari Dingle (Sandifer) Costantini, RN, MBA, founder and CEO of Avant Healthcare Professionals, is a renowned expert in the healthcare industry, with 29 years of experience in strategic leadership, nursing, and international nurse staffing. As a registered nurse and accomplished business owner in healthcare staffing, she offers a unique perspective and keen insights into a wide range of issues affecting medical staff today and is an authoritative source on matters concerning international workers.

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