The beginning of a newly qualified practitioner's career can be a challenging time and their initial experiences can shape how they develop in their career. To ensure the best possible start for newly qualified nurses, nursing associates, midwives and allied health professionals, a quality preceptorship programme is essential.
Preceptorship is a period of structured transition to guide and support all newly qualified practitioners from student to autonomous professional in order to develop their practice further.
A preceptorship should be a structured period for newly qualified nurses, nursing associates, midwives or allied health professionals when they start employment in the NHS. During this time, they should be supported by an experienced practitioner, a preceptor, to develop their confidence as an independent professional, and to refine their skills, values and behaviours. Having expert support, and learning from best practice in dedicated time gives a foundation for lifelong learning and allows them to provide effective patient-centred care confidently.
The standards for pre-registration nursing education by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) recognise that nurses will need to be more independent, autonomous and innovative in the future. Having a strong preceptorship programme in place will be vital to achieving these aims.
Following the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration every individual is seen as competent and accountable. Preceptorship is the transition phase that allows professionals to develop from novice practitioner, developing as a professional and is not meant to compensate for any shortfall in pre-registration education.
Benefits of a preceptorship
It is recognised that where preceptorship is well embedded as part of the organisational culture, there are significant benefits for the newly qualified staff, teams, patients and the organisation itself in terms of retention, recruitment and staff engagement. Investing in a preceptorship programme can deliver a variety of benefits for the preceptee and employer, such as:
- enhanced patient care and experience
- improved recruitment and retention
- reduced sickness absence
- more confident and skilled staff
- increased staff satisfaction and morale.
Employers are encouraged to track, measure and evaluate the success of their preceptorship programmes to be able to demonstrate value and make improvements where necessary.
In partnership with UNISON, we have pulled together resources and guidance for those new to the workforce and how preceptorship offers can be enhanced when supporting newly qualified registered healthcare professionals during the pandemic.
The NMC has developed a set of principles for employers to help them deliver high quality and effective preceptorships for newly qualified nurses, midwifes and nursing associates. Download the principles of preceptorship document (pdf).
A selection of resources from the CapitalNurse programme, including a preceptorship framework and presentation can be found on Health Education England’s website. These can be adapted for different professions and there are examples of good practice from a number of NHS organisations in the 'case studies' section.
The pan-London region has also created a framework for health and care organisations to support the practice of newly registered nurses. This recommended best practice approach to preceptorships has been developed through an extensive stakeholder engagement exercise and recognises that a positive preceptorship experience offers significant benefits to both the newly qualified professional and organisations. View the pan-London resource.
A multi-professional preceptorship programme developed for newly qualified primary care staff can be found on the Sussex Training Hub website. The programme is designed to support all multi-professional clinical colleagues who are new to the primary care environment to transition into their new role with confidence and competence.
HEE has developed a useful online learning programme for second and third year nursing students supporting them as they transition into their first post as a registered nurse. The programme is freely available on the HEE Learning Hub, and includes topics such as ‘what to expect as a nurse’ and ‘how to make the most of your early years as a nurse’
Examples of good practice
At University Hospitals of Derby and Burton there is an embedded preceptorship programme led by a dedicated colleague. Preceptees receive a green lanyard to wear in their role and therefore are easily identifiable on the wards across the different professions, which may mean they require extra support in their duties. They also gain access to peer support sessions and six themed workshops, based on soft skills including resilience and wellbeing, communication and personal development to name a few, these are opportunities to learn and also network in their new organisation.
The skeleton structure can suit any profession and could also be used during supervision for any band or student. The trust has used their online portal to keep things electronic, including the ability to complete sections of the preceptorship online.
Progress reviews take place across the year between the preceptor and preceptee, at least every three months, to monitor progress and share parts of the programme they can get involved with. The trust has also recently implemented a pilot project which is backed by a chief nurse, where trained bank nurses support newly qualified nurses, one to one supernumerary on shifts. The bank nurses receive training and are provided with a lanyard to show their role. This has been successful so far in nursing across all departments at all sites and is due to be rolled out inter-professionally to support the next generations of newly qualified preceptees across the trust.
Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust understands the importance of preceptorships and has continued to support newly-qualified clinical staff from a variety of professions virtually throughout the pandemic. As part of this approach, they have tailored virtual study days ensuring the Health Education England standards are fulfilled. They were keen to explore preceptees views and ensure individual learning styles were met, therefore created a diverse learning approach, which included information sharing, storytelling, videos, and lots of time for peer to peer discussion in breakout rooms online, to facilitate an effective adult learning environment.
The trust has recently become part of an ICS and therefore is keen to meet the Nursing and Midwifery Council requirements for preceptorship about working closely with Higher Education Institutes. As part of this, they recently co-organised a multi-collaborative pilot project with other NHS Trusts and private organisations in the region to support third year students for them at University. The organisations delivered virtual events in conjunction with the local University to give short sessions to share how each support newly qualified staff and the employment opportunities available to give these students a more informed decision about where to seek employment. An important session for students to understand whether each of the employers preceptorship programme’s meet the individual needs.
University Hospitals Sussex have developed their own in house multi-disciplinary preceptorship model. The preceptor year has been adapted to a virtual training module accredited by the University of Surrey, so at the end of that year they can do a reflective assignment and receive academic credits, including for overseas nurses of which they have around 140 in one cohort.
The first year is an opportunity to establish their needs as new staff in the NHS and gain confidence. After the first year, preceptees can go into a year two module which looks at nursing in the acute care environment, an opportunity to enhance skills in their area. Then finally the third year looks at leadership which is mapped to the advanced clinical practice pillars. The three year preceptorship programme then leads them to revalidation at which point have experience to already be considering pathways to explore further or specialise.
The trust works to the Greater Manchester/North West preceptorship framework standards that are aligned in the area for employers to work to. They allow a period of being supernumerary to enable the multi-professional preceptee to settle in to the role and organisation once joined. The trust also offers a number of workshops about operational, leadership, health and wellbeing and transitional sessions throughout the first year of being in role. This approach has been advantageous to preceptees joining the trust and supports retention of staff.