From the desk of Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, March 25, 2011

Editor's note: This feature is written by nursing staff development expert Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN. Each week, Adrianne writes about an important issue in the area of staff development or answers reader questions. If you have a question for Adrianne, e-mail her at

Selecting preceptors

Not everyone is cut out to be a preceptor. Yet nursing departments often expect all nurses to assume the preceptor role. Preceptors need to be selected with as much care and thought as do the nurses who are hired to fill vacancies. If someone doesn't want to be a preceptor, it is almost a certainty that they will have little desire to help an orientee successfully complete orientation.

Here are some suggestions for identifying candidates who will make good preceptors:

  • The role of preceptor is not an easy one. It should be part of a career advancement program in which preceptor responsibilities are associated with promotion. Part of the role of preceptor should be linked to significant recognition, including monetary increases and overt acknowledgment of the contributions specific preceptors have made.
  • Preceptors performance should be evaluated as part of their annual job performance evaluation and they should be evaluated on the success of their orientees completing orientation. For example, you should be able to link retention rates of orientees to their preceptors. What is the turnover rate? Do particular preceptors have a higher rate of success with their orientees than others?
  • Preceptors should have to complete a specific preceptor training program that is competency based. An important part of that program should be a discussion of nurse-to-nurse hostility. Research shows that nearly 60% of new nurses will leave their first jobs due to bullying by peers. There should be a zero tolerance for such behavior on the part of preceptors. If such behavior exists, there should be specific consequences for this behavior according to hospital policy.
  • Preceptors should have the opportunity for annual refreshers. A short program that allows preceptors to discuss their successes (and their problems) and to learn from each other. It is not easy to be a good preceptor. Don't make the mistake of holding an initial training program and then abandoning preceptors without any future opportunities for education, discussion, and the establishment of a support network.
  • Be sure that preceptors are involved in discussions about retention and the significant impact their roles as preceptors have on retention. Some preceptors have no idea that what they do contributes to retention.

In summary, gather evidence regarding how preceptors are trained, how they implement their roles as preceptors, and how such implementation affects retention and departmental functioning. And be sure to share this evidence with your preceptors.

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