As a way of getting additional education, nurse practitioner students are required to complete a clinical component to obtain an advanced skill set and complete their program successfully. This clinical portion is usually led by a physician or nurse practitioner. They are considered the preceptor, which is someone who oversees the nurse practitioner student and serves as a role model during their clinical experience.
Many nursing schools require a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) students to find their own clinical sites and preceptors. This is to allow the student to identify the preceptor that supports the students in the areas that they desire to work in the future. It is also a great time to learn about new areas. Time spent with the preceptor allows for mentorship and advanced learning. At Herzing University, we support and guide students through the process to ensure they secure a preceptor and succeed in their educational experience.
While finding a preceptor is a big deal, you shouldn’t worry about it, especially if you prepare in advance. Below are some helpful tips for finding a nursing preceptor.
1. Start early
Securing a clinical preceptorship takes time, so you’ll want to get started months or even a year in advance. In fact, some organizations require 6 to 12 months to process preceptor requests. Keep in mind that this can be a competitive process and starting early may give you more options to choose from.
Before you start making hard inquiries, you should learn how many clinical hours are required for your degree and what type of clinical experience you need. For example, the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program at Herzing focuses on primary care, so specialty clinical settings are not generally accepted. A nursing educator preceptorship would also place a greater emphasis on educational and teaching experiences.
In addition to researching your preceptorship requirements and opportunities, you should make sure your resume is up to date. Make sure to include your current educational status so that locations see that you are seeking to utilize them as a clinical site. You might also want to create and practice a short “elevator pitch” to introduce yourself and clearly explain your goals. Additionally, you can begin reaching out to your contacts to ask if they would act as professional references for you should they be needed.
When thinking of how to secure your preceptorship, you don’t have to look far. If you are already a registered nurse (RN), begin networking with people you know from school, work or nursing organizations to start discussing your plans. Some nurses may even have the option to complete their preceptorship with their employer as long as their clinicals are not completed during paid working hours.
You can also use other resources such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners to connect with nurse practitioners. Additionally, places like LinkedIn or the ENP Network can be a great starting point to connect with nurse practitioners and other potential preceptors outside of your personal network. Professional organizations in your local area are great places to start creating peer relationships. You could also reach out to other alumni from your school to find out what resources they used and any other helpful tips they may have. Don't hesitate to reach out to a clinical coordinator for questions and support.
3. Be professional
Go into your preceptorship search and interviews like you would a job interview. You should be professional when reaching out to individuals and organizations. Since you have given yourself ample time to prepare, you should have all the needed documentation readily accessible and professional references lined up. Don’t forget to follow up with organizations after your initial meeting to remind them that you are interested in the preceptorship and demonstrate that you are passionate about your career and the nursing profession.
When possible, it is encouraged to seek out opportunities by going to organizations that you would like to do your preceptorship at and meet with someone face to face for a more personal experience and so you can address any questions or concerns your potential preceptor may have. You add another layer of credibility if you arrive at the meeting on time, well prepared and dressed professionally. If you are only choosing to calm the person on the other end doesn't get to know the real you and can easily say "no". The goal is that they see you as a professional and would like for you to complete a clinical experience with them and who also knows that this could lead to a job after graduation!
4. Make the most of campus resources
As part of Herzing University's MSN Clinical Placement Pledge, we’re committed to helping you secure a preceptorship, and you’re never on your own! You will want to connect with your clinical coordinator as early as possible. Not only can they provide you with valuable advice, but they will ensure your clinical gets final approval from the clinical approval team. It would be frustrating to discover after all your hard work that your preceptorship does not meet all the clinical requirements of your degree program.
Your clinical coordinator will also be able to discuss additional requirements, deadlines and course expectations before the start of the preceptorship. Students enrolled in the nurse practitioner programs are required to take the Clinical Readiness Course to prepare for and maximize their clinical experience.
5. Ask questions
Finding and completing a preceptorship makes a significant impact on your career, so you want to make the most of the experience! If you are unsure about some aspect of finding a preceptorship, what to expect from your clinical experience or how to prepare for clinicals, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions shows that you have attention to detail and truly care about your work. Your personal network, the program chair, course professors, clinical coordinators as well as the university staff are available to help you succeed.