Taskforce Tackles Nursing Preceptor Shortage

UC College of Nursing offers online resources to attract and retain preceptors

By: Evelyn Fleider

The number of students enrolled in graduate nursing programs across the country has grown significantly in the last few years, creating an increasing demand for preceptors who offer a safe, effective way for students to gain experience and develop specialized competencies. The University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, in response, is working to find ways to reduce known barriers to preceptorship and offer support and resources for new and current preceptors.

Experience alongside a preceptor in clinical settings is an essential component of advanced-practice nursing education. Preceptors help develop the next generation of competent advanced-practice nurses by providing students with individualized support and guidance and by role-modeling the use of evidence-based practice in real-life experiences. Due to this important role, preceptors hold the key to increasing the number and quality of Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students getting prepared for practice in primary care, community-based care, acute care and other settings.

Preceptors are helping us shape the future of nursing by sharing their expertise with the next generation of practitioners.

Jamie Heck, PhD Director of Academic Affairs

The reputation, quality and flexibility of the college’s advanced-practice nursing programs have attracted a growing number of students, requiring the college to not only increase the recruitment of qualified preceptors throughout the country, but also to assess barriers to preceptorship and employ novel approaches to create and sustain opportunities for students. Among barriers to preceptorship identified by research, the limited communication between the preceptor and universities, especially in the case of distance learners, rises to the top. Other barriers include difficulty in arranging clinical site contracts, limited faculty engagement, insufficient recognition and lack of resources to build confidence in the preceptor role. From the students’ perspective, preceptors who have strong communication skills, provide consistent feedback and are willing to convey clear expectations and instructions result in positive clinical experiences.

With this information in mind, the college’s Director of Academic Affairs Jamie Heck, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing Lindsay Davis, DNP, APRN-CNP, and Professor and Executive Director of Graduate Programs Christine Colella, DNP, APRN-CNP, FAANP, assembled an interprofessional team consisting of administrators, faculty and staff to create and implement a new approach aimed at improving the level of support to preceptors, increasing their satisfaction. After identifying and reviewing previous strategies employed to recruit, acclimate and engage preceptors, the need for a public-facing website sharing helpful content was identified as a critical component to create an
inclusive environment and foster a consistent and standardized experience
within the clinical setting.

"To create an atmosphere that harbors a sense of belonging and connectedness, we implemented an online platform to fully engage our preceptors with relevant, timely and useful content so they can then shape a meaningful and stimulating student experience," says Heck. "Preceptors are helping us shape the future of nursing by sharing their expertise with the next generation of practitioners."

To build the website, the team identified and organized content in sections according to specific needs informed by college constituents and preceptors. Each section contains different components and covers topics such as graduate program objectives, faculty and staff contact information, becoming a preceptor, getting started as a preceptor and preceptor success. Small groups searched for component-specific, quality content, then met as a team to review and approve it, ensuring consistency and continuity of voice. The website was then shared with faculty and preceptors for feedback and
further content refinement.

  • Ready to play a key role in preparing future advanced-practice nurse leaders? Visit the Preceptor section on UC College of Nursing's site for more details.

Aware that ongoing evaluation is essential in the development of a tool that engages and enriches the preceptor experience, the team has continuously assessed the adequacy of the technology and relevancy of content through preceptor surveys and stakeholder anecdotal information, ensuring that changes, improvements and content enhance the preceptor experience.

Preceptor Website Survey Results

About a quarter (26%) of survey respondents said they used the
preceptor website weekly between May and August 2020.

Over half of survey respondents (55%) said they used the preceptor
website monthly between May and August 2020.

Percentage of survey respondents who agreed or strongly agreed with the
statements below:

  • The information provided on the preceptor website is relevant to my preceptor role (84%)
  • The resources provided on the preceptor website are accurate (84%)
  • The preceptor website is easy to navigate (82%)
  • The resources provided on the preceptor website helped me prepare for the preceptor role (82%)
  • The information provided on the preceptor website is useful in my role as a preceptor (74%)

Photo/Colleen Kelly/UC Creative + Brand