Supporting newly qualified registered healthcare professionals during the pandemic

Resources and guidance for supporting those new to the workforce at this time and how your preceptorship offer can be enhanced.

10 September 2021

This guidance has been prepared in partnership with UNISON.

We appreciate that NHS organisations are continuing to experience high levels of pressure relating to both COVID and non-COVID care, and at the same time managing workforce gaps due to sickness and annual leave. However, we also know that you are very keen to ensure your newly qualified professionals have the best introduction to their new working environment, to ensure they stay in your organisation and the health and social care environment as a whole.

Following on from our previous correspondence in early 2021, and as part of discussions between NHS England and NHS Improvement, Health Education England, the regulators, trade unions and ourselves, we have discussed the need for potential additional support as part of preceptorships for newly qualified professionals, including nurses, midwives, nursing associates, healthcare scientists and allied health professionals.

Students moving into newly qualified positions have shared concerns with a number of stakeholders about their experiences during the pandemic.
We are aware of the following factors.

  • The workplaces students are entering are under huge pressure. Teams may therefore struggle to offer normal preceptorship experiences and individuals will need to quickly adapt to their registered role.
  • The experience of paid placements and online learning has impacted on the learning experience and confidence of many newly-qualifying professionals.
  • These factors bring an increased risk that students may experience worse anxiety, stress and potentially burnout and struggle to achieve their full potential in their new roles.

There is a mixture of experiences among these groups. While all individuals who have qualified are undoubtedly competent, there are some scenarios which they may not have encountered during their learning as a result of placements being rearranged or changes to care pathways during the pandemic.

We have heard from students and newly qualifying professionals about their concerns and are recommending support that may enhance an organisation’s preceptorship offer when appointing a newly qualified health professional.

We will also be exploring how to provide national support and leadership, alongside our partners, to assist employers in providing meaningful support to these individuals going forward.

Support to enhance preceptorship offers

  1. Have a collaborative discussion with the preceptee to understand any specific learning needs while reassuring them that the trust/department knows they are competent in their role. You may wish to do this, with the individual’s consent, in-conjunction with your local RePAIR representative, practice midwifery advocate and/or the university if appropriate. Wherever possible, we recommend that protected time in a quiet area be identified for this.
  2. Undertake a comprehensive induction and stress within that, that the trust/department is aware the pandemic has potentially impacted on their learning and if they have any concerns, identify a named individual who they can go to.
  3. Discuss their preceptorship on a one-to-one basis and encourage them to have an open discussion about any concerns they may have. Agree an action plan with both parties as to how any learning objectives will be addressed and consider using a coaching approach to support them. Review the plan regularly in person, noting the progress made.
  4. Identify a named person for support from day one, with whom they can discuss any problems or concerns they may have. This may be through your routine preceptorship programme. Ensure there is a stand-in to account for leave and other times when they may not be available. 
  5. Consider providing paid protected time, at a suggestion of a day a month, for preceptees to have time for reflection, study and peer networking. 
  6. Support preceptees to have time with senior clinical leaders for mentoring and guidance so they are able to consider development opportunities they may have missed out on. 
  7. Ensure information is available on other support available within the trust such as occupational health, counselling, and trade union support among others. External forms of support could include peer support forums and social media networks. 

Additional national support and further resources to improve preceptorship 


  • Explore best practice examples of preceptorship on the RCN website.
  • Further advice is also available to students and line managers on the NMC website.

Preceptorship resources

Available resources to help trusts implement preceptorships in their organisations.
Who When Resource
NHS Employers Jan 2021

Preceptorships for newly qualified staff

  • Explains importance of offering preceptorships to newly qualified staff.
  • Highlights benefits of preceptorships.
Provides list of things to consider when appointing newly graduated professionals, which considers the impact of starting a role during the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust March 2019

Improved preceptorships case study

Details the trust’s approach to reviewing and improving their preceptorship programme.

Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust March 2021

Using action learning sets to support newly qualified nurses in practice case study (pdf)

  • Action learning sets used to problem solve.
  • Uses structured peer support to help individuals find solutions.
  • Evaluation suggests approach has been positive.
Nursing and Midwifery Council 2008

Standards to support learning and assessment in practice

Outlines the requirements for supporting the learning and assessment of students in the practice learning environment

Nursing and Midwifery Council Sept 2020 (last updated)

Principles of preceptorship to support employers to implement high-quality, effective preceptorships.

Capital Nurse project hosted by Health Education England Sept 2017

Preceptorship framework and supporting documents

  •  A ‘best-practice’ approach to implementing preceptorships
  • Clear guidance for first year post-graduate students on managing their preceptorship
  • Standards for protected time for preceptorship
  • Charter setting out what is expected of preceptors and employers
  • Practical templates for preceptors to use
  • 14 required elements of a preceptorship
  • Supporting slides
Capital Nurse project hosted by Health Education England April 2020

Accelerated preceptorship COVID-19 

  • For newly qualified staff and those returning to the workforce via the temporary registers
  • Provides a preceptorship development plan, sources of support and preceptor checklist
  • Has lots of supporting documents
Health Education England  

e-learning preceptorship programme


  • Designed to develop the knowledge and skills needed to act as a preceptor
  • Includes case studies, videos and workbooks
Department of Health and Social Care   A preceptorship framework for newly registered nurses, midwives and allied health professionals. (pdf) 
-    Practical framework to develop preceptorships
-    Describes key elements of a good preceptorship
-    Suggests outcomes measures to evaluate if the preceptorship meets individual’s need, demonstrates value for money and underpins delivery of high-quality care.
NHS Scotland  

Flying start development programme 

  • Scottish government requires all newly qualified nurses, midwives and AHPs to undertake this programme in first year of practice.
  • Practical, work-based programme tailored to the individual.
Programme based around 4 pillars; clinical practice, leadership, facilitating learning and evidence.
Welsh Assembly Government  

All Wales Preceptorship Guidelines for newly appointed ward sisters/charge nurses (pdf) 

  • Welsh government requires all newly-appointed ward sisters/charge nurses to have a period of preceptorship of not less than six months from appointment.
  • Includes a flow chart and example of record keeping.
Royal College of Nursing  
Royal College of Midwives  

Position statement for newly qualified midwives from the Royal College of Midwives (pdf)