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Blog: Supporting employers to deliver preceptorship programmes

Dr Geraldine Walters, Executive Director of Professional Practice, talks about our newly published principles of preceptorship.

We’ve published a set of principles to help support all professionals who design and oversee preceptorship programmes, those engaged on preceptorship programmes (preceptees) and those who support preceptees (preceptors).

What is preceptorship?

It’s often said that you really learn to drive after you pass your test. When you’re a new nurse, midwife, or nursing associate, moving from being a student to being an accountable, qualified professional can feel as though you are suddenly in the fast lane on the motorway – by yourself, with no seatbelt.

All of us who are registered professionals can recognise this feeling and we know that the experience a person has in that newly qualified phase can be really significant in shaping the course of their future career. I expect at some point it was recognised that the benefit of having someone more experienced, who is there for you, taking an interest in you and guiding you through those first few months was so invaluable that it should not be left to chance.

What are the benefits?

The preceptorship programmes that have since evolved have been welcomed and valued by newly qualified nurses and midwives. We know that our new recruits are attracted to work in organisations that promise “good” preceptorship, and are more likely to stay in those organisations to develop their careers further. We know that it improves practice. Preceptorship will therefore benefit employers, preceptees, and people who use services.

What are the new preceptorship principles?

But what is “good” preceptorship? It should provide a supportive environment for those who are newly registered to successfully make the transition from being a student to being a fully qualified, confident, professional. It should help newly qualified nurses, midwives and nursing associates convert their academic learning into everyday practice. It should be tailored to the needs of individuals, and avoid retesting knowledge and skills that they have already demonstrated in order to join our register. It should help them understand the foundations required to become an accountable professional; reflection, lifelong learning, and the ability to identify their own continuing professional development needs.

Throughout the UK there are some fantastic preceptorship programmes. They are all different - this is important, as all organisations deliver programmes that are tailored to the requirements of their preceptees and preceptors.

However, through talking to our colleagues and partners, we know there are some characteristics which seem to be common to successful programmes. So these principles aim to set out the characteristics of a “good” preceptorship programme. They are intended to support employers to develop programmes, and to help newly registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates to recognise what they should expect from a good preceptorship programme.

Our new principles for preceptorship have been developed in collaboration with the Chief Nursing Officers (CNOs) in the four countries of the UK, the Chief Midwifery Officers in England and Scotland, and Lead officers for midwifery in Northern Ireland and Wales. We are grateful for their support on this important work.

And finally...

Preceptorship for newly qualified professionals has existed for some time and is here to stay. We hope these principles will be applied by organisations to support graduate nurses, midwives and nursing associates join the register and start their careers.

But we have designed them so they can be applied to all situations where professionals would benefit from this kind of support. This includes those returning to practice, overseas candidates in training, and registered professionals who are adapting to a new or different scope of practice - for example adapting to new roles during the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery period.

I am grateful to all those who contributed to the development of these principles, I am excited to see them published and I hope they will be used throughout the UK in years to come.

Download our principles of preceptorship


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