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Reflections on setting up a nursing preceptorship programme

11 June 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 11


It is now common practice for preceptorship programmes to be offered to newly qualified nurses within the NHS. The Nursing and Midwifery Council expects newly qualified nurses to be given protected time for learning in their first year of qualified practice and to access support from a preceptor. This article discusses a preceptorship programme that has been implemented in a large integrated NHS Trust in north-west London and shares reflections and learning to date, which can benefit others wanting to roll out a similar programme in the UK.

Preceptorship was introduced to nursing as part of the Project 2000 reforms, when it was recognised that the transition period from student to registered nurse was an extremely valuable period for developing nursing practice. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) defines preceptorship as about:

‘Providing support and guidance enabling new registrants to make the transition from student to accountable practitioner.’

The Department of Health (DH) defines preceptorship as:

‘A period of structured transition for the newly registered practitioner during which he or she will be supported by a preceptor, to develop their confidence as an autonomous professional, refine skills, values and behaviours and to continue on their journey of life-long learning’

According to NHS Employers, a quality preceptorship programme is essential to ensure the best possible start for newly qualified nurses, midwives and allied health professionals (NHS Employers, 2018).

There are a number of benefits associated with the delivery of a robust preceptorship programme. Preceptorship has been reported to provide effective and efficient learning experiences to preceptees from diverse backgrounds, who may have varying learning needs, allowing a ‘tailor-made’ approach to learning (Forneris and Peden-McAlpine, 2009; Sandau et al, 2011). This is particularly relevant in the England, where 16% of the nursing workforce is made up of international nurses (Baker, 2019). The number of international nurses is likely to increase in the next few years as the Interim NHS People Plan confirmed the need to ‘increase international recruitment significantly’ to boost the supply of nurses (NHS Improvement, 2019:27). This is also reflected in The NHS Long Term Plan for England, where a ‘step change’ in the recruitment of international nurses was mentioned, aimed at bringing several thousand into the health service each year over the next 5 years (NHS England and NHS Improvement, 2019).

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