Read any nursing blog or ask any nurse practitioner student their two biggest concerns about their NP program, and they will invariably be the same: passing the certification and finding a preceptor for their next rotation.

Taking the certification is a grueling, individual right of passage that every practitioner must undertake. Locating a preceptor that will provide the best possible learning experience is equally as important. Qualified NP’s can assist up-and-coming students make the most of these opportunities by making themselves available to precept.

As one of the fastest growing professions in the country with over 180,000 NPs practicing, the number of new practitioners entering the workforce will only continue to grow.1 The NP curriculum is rigorous and difficult. Most universities require a minimum of 500 clinical practicum hours in addition to being masters prepared to become an NP.

Students are often responsible for locating and identifying preceptors prior to class registration, with very little assistance or guidance from universities. Often students are not able to secure a site at which they are able to complete their clinical hours, causing class and graduation delays.

The typical process of securing a preceptor involves cold-calling NPs listed online. More often than not, the student is unable to speak directly to the practitioner and is instead directed to an office manager. Some preceptors are identified through networking, but student networks are usually small and often ineffective. The options are relatively slim, so an interview between the student and preceptor is rarely achieved.

If an NP is not available, the student may rotate with a physician to complete practicum hours. But NP’s practice from a nursing model, not a medical model, so a physician preceptor will not offer the same experience as an opportunity with an NP.

The professional role of the NP is to “provide nursing and medical services to individuals, families and groups, in addition to diagnosing and managing acute episodic and chronic illnesses, emphasizing health promotion and disease prevention,” according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).2 Numerous studies support the effectiveness of NPs. A literature review indicates that outcomes for NP-initiated interventions equal those of medical physicians.3

NPs are unique in that they utilize an approach to heathcare that is not always shared with the medical profession. Instead of treating disease, NPs treat patients holistically, often including the family and sometimes the community in care. They also treat wellness from the same lens, focusing on primary interventions, such as immunizations and screenings in an effort to maintain the health of the patient.

Diagnoses and treatment plans incorporate patients’ family, financial and community resources. Conversely, when a patient lacks support in these areas, alterations to treatment plans must be made through discussions with the patient.

The NP preceptor has a unique opportunity to pass this holistic methodology onto students. As we know from experience, the knowledge base of the preceptor is often proportional to the overall student experience.

So the question remains, what are the incentives to precepting? Currently, there are professional development requirements by both the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and AANP to maintain certification. One method of maintaining certification is by precepting an NP student for 120 hours.4 If the certification is audited, the student may be required to provide preceptorship documentation, which includes hours, objectives, outcomes and site location.5

Both the AANP and ANCC maintain a list of participating preceptors for which NPs can sign up in order to receive such credits. Subsequently, students can search this list to find learning opportunities.

Another incentive to precepting is an expansion of the preceptor’s knowledge base with exposure to the latest evidence based research. All students ask, “Why?” This question should be viewed as an opportunity to verify current pathways and standards of care, enabling professional growth for both the preceptor and the student.

Finally, precepting offers an opportunity to pass on the NP practice, including knowledge, resources, community contacts and the benefit of experience.

Preceptors are every bit as important an influence on the education of an NP student as the choice of university. As the number of NPs continues to grow, so does the need for qualified and willing preceptors to assist students in their education. Don’t hesitate. Sign up to precept today and pay it forward.

Lori M. Krall, is an FNP candidate in the NP program at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA.

References

  1. The Henry Kaiser Family Foundation (n.d.). Total Nurse Practitioners, 2011. Retrieved  Feb. 26, 2013, from http://www.statehealthfacts.org
  2. American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). 2010. Scope of practice for nurse practitioners. Retrieved Feb. 26, 2013, from http://www.aanp.org/
  3. Newhouse RP, Stanik-Hutt J, White KM et al. Advanced practice nurse outcomes 1990-2008: A systematic review. Nursing Economics. 2011;29(5):230-250.
  4. American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). 2013 Certification renewal requirements. Retrieved Feb. 7, 2013 from http://www.nursecredentialing.org/
  5. Fitzgerald MA (n.d.) Staying certified. Advance for NPs & PAs. Retrieved Feb. 26, 2013 from http://nurse-practitioners-and-physician-assistants.advanceweb.com/article/staying-certified.aspx.