What Is a Nurse Preceptor?

A nurse preceptor sits on a hospital bench discussing an x-ray with a new nurse.Today’s health care industry is constantly changing and evolving. This fast-paced progress affects nurses, who adapt to new technologies, methodologies, regulations, payment structures and more, all while maintaining a focus on delivering the highest standards of patient care. To guide nurses as they continue to meet this challenge, many hospitals and health systems employ nurse preceptors.

What is a nurse preceptor’s role? These nursing professionals mentor other nurses, particularly less experienced ones. Nurse preceptors play an essential role in developing strong nursing teams, helping train and coach the next generation of caregivers, and helping veteran nurses stay flexible in response to change.

For those with advanced nurse training, the nurse preceptor role can be a deeply rewarding way to nurture and develop a resilient nurse workforce.

What Does a Nurse Preceptor Do?

The basic function of nurse preceptors is to offer support, resources, and educational opportunities to  both nursing teams and individual nurse professionals.

Nurse Preceptor Duties and Responsibilities

While the specific duties and responsibilities of a nurse preceptor can vary from one health care facility to the next, typical tasks include:

  • Providing training, support, and mentorship to new nurses who are transitioning into the workforce
  • Creating a safe, welcoming work environment that promotes learning and continuous education
  • Facilitating professional development and helping nursing staff hone their clinical skills
  • Evaluating nurses for their clinical proficiency, and advising nurse leaders and directors on staffing or scheduling issues
  • Communicating with any clinical instructors who are involved with staff development
  • Helping more senior nurses acclimate to changing technologies or procedures

Setting SMART Goals

One of the most significant tasks of a nurse preceptor is setting goals for new nurses, giving them a sense of direction as they transition into health care work. Often, nurse preceptors set goals using the SMART framework — goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

While SMART goals may look different from nurse to nurse, some typical examples include:

  • Increasing psychomotor skills
  • Enhancing organizational skills
  • Improving communication with other nurses
  • Increasing medical knowledge
  • Providing high-quality education to patients and family members

Ultimately, nurse preceptors may deploy SMART goals to help other nurses develop skills, enhance clinical knowledge, and strengthen confidence.

Nurse Preceptor Skills

Succeeding as a nurse preceptor includes mastering and applying many valuable core competencies. Important nurse preceptor skills include the following.

  • Interpersonal skills. Strong interpersonal skills allow nurse preceptors to earn the trust of other nurses and ultimately win buy-in into their mentorship efforts.
  • Collaboration. Nurse preceptors must collaborate not only with other nurses but also with nurse leaders and managers, aligning shared goals.
  • Leadership. Leadership skills enable nurse preceptors to set a vision for the nurses they work with and to motivate these nurses to pursue SMART goals.
  • Teamwork. The role of the nurse preceptor isn’t merely to develop proficient nurses, but to ensure their nurses gel into a cohesive, coordinated team.
  • Critical thinking. Nurse preceptors need critical-thinking skills to help them determine the best ways to help their nurses move past any professional or intellectual roadblocks.
  • Problem-solving. Problem-solving skills enable nurse preceptors to help nurses who may be struggling with new technologies, shifting policies, or an evolving workplace.
  • Communication. The best nurse preceptors can communicate clearly with their nursing staff, nurse leaders, and patients.

What Is a Nurse Preceptor Salary?

Nurses are typically drawn to the preceptor role because they are passionate about professional development and because they are enthusiastic about helping new nurses adapt to this challenging yet rewarding vocation.

Aspiring nurse preceptors should establish pay expectations early. What is a nurse preceptor's salary, on average? The median annual salary was approximately $78,000, according to November 2022 information from the compensation website Payscale.

Many factors can affect the nurse preceptor's salary, including years of experience, level of education, geographic area, and more.

Lead the Next Generation of Nurses>

Nursing is an invaluable profession, helping patients reap the benefits of excellent clinical care. It can also be fast-paced and swiftly evolving. To transition into a new nursing role, or to continue to receive professional development, mentorship is a must. That’s exactly what a nurse preceptor offers.

One way to prepare for a nurse preceptor position is to obtain an advanced nursing education. Hawai’i Pacific University’s online Master of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice program supplies nurses with the training to pursue diverse career goals, including the crucial role of nurse preceptor.

Recommended Readings

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Indeed, Guide on How to Write SMART Goals (With Examples)

Indeed, 10 Goals for Preceptors to Set With New Nurses

Johnson & Johnson Nursing, Mentorship

Nursing Management, "Nurse Preceptors: A Valuable Resource for Adapting Staff to Change"

Payscale, Average Nurse Preceptor Hourly Pay