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. A quality preceptorship programme is essential to ensure the best possible start for newly qualified nurses, nursing associates, midwives and allied health professionals.
Preceptorship is a period of structured transition to guide and support newly qualified practitioners from students to autonomous professionals. In order to develop their practice, this is not meant to compensate for any shortfall in pre-registration education.
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, and 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.
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.
The National preceptorship framework for nursing sets national standards for preceptorship for nurses and establishes a framework for good practice that can be adopted across all regions in England. The framework has been developed by NHS England's national preceptorship programme.
NHS England launched the national preceptorship framework for midwifery, which builds on the national preceptorship framework for nursing. This framework, though intended for midwives, can be used as a core set of standards where multidisciplinary preceptorship programmes are in place.
In June 2023, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan set out ambitions to address inconsistencies in the delivery of preceptorship programmes for newly qualified staff across the country.
To ensure consistent delivery and a high-quality preceptorship experience for all early career nurses and midwives, the NHS will support trusts to adopt the National Preceptorship Framework.
In partnership with UNISON, we have brought together resources and guidance to support new qualified members of the workforce. These resources highlighted how preceptorship offers could be enhanced when supporting newly qualified registered healthcare professionals during the pandemic. Whilst the pandemic is over, the resource remains very applicable given the current workplace pressures faced by newly qualified staff.
The NMC has developed a set of principles for employers to help them deliver high-quality and effective preceptorships for newly qualified nurses, midwives and nursing associates. Download the principles of preceptorship document.
A selection of resources from the CapitalNurse programme, including a preceptorship framework and presentation can be found on NHS 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 professionals 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.
NHS England 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 NHS England's 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’.
The national retention team at NHS England has developed resources that support organisations to implement and employ legacy mentors. Legacy mentors are experienced nurses, or colleagues in other regulated professions, usually in their late career, who provide coaching, mentoring, and pastoral support to colleagues who are at the start of their NHS career. These resources have been developed in conjunction with organisations who have existing legacy mentors and include a business case and job description, which can be tailored to suit each organisation's needs, as well as advice on inducting and evaluating the role.
The Multi-Professional Preceptor e-Compendium developed by NHS England recognises the needs of preceptors and provides them with the guidance, support and practical tools needed to carry out their vital role. The e-Compendium marks the launch of a set of resources that are aligned with the preceptorship principles and frameworks across each of the professional groups.