Guidelines for Clinical Preceptors

This page contains information about:

  • Orientation strategies
  • Strategies to assist students to learn in the clinical setting
  • Indicators of student readiness for increased responsibility

Orientation strategies

  • Identify ground rules (e.g., patient selection; reviewing protocols specific to setting);
  • Review charts to outline documentation requirements used in setting;
  • Explain role for preceptor (e.g., how you will introduce students to patients; how you will check student);
  • Share expectations of the student with the student;
  • Get to know the student (e.g., student's past professional and student experiences; student perception of learning needs).

Strategies to assist students to learn in the clinical setting

  • Create an environment to decrease anxiety and enhance learning (e.g., give positive feedback; reassure student that you are ultimately responsible for client's care; reinforce their sense of competency by reminding them of their nursing experience to date);
  • Role model (e.g., demonstrate components of physical exam;joint discharge planning with a patient);
  • Use charting to teach;
  • Use pre and post conferences as appropriate;
  • Assign readings for specialty areas;
  • Use detailed, guided questioning with the student (helps student to focus and to give a rationale for actions taken).

Indicators of student readiness for increased responsibility

  • There is a mutual increase in comfort, almost intuitive; a mutual decision;
  • Trust is built between you and the student; helps student to not get in over her/his head and to be responsible for her/his own actions and decisions;
  • Student proves she/he will not miss anything important;
  • There is no longer a need to review every detail with the preceptor;
  • Student has proven physical assessment skills.
  • Student gives accurate clinical presentation of significant positives and negatives;
  • Data presented by student proves she/he has covered all bases with the patient;
  • Student shows ability to tie in past experience with new skills and apply them to new scenarios;
  • Student recognizes limits of knowledge; admits to weaknesses;
  • Student asks appropriate questions;
  • Student becomes a self starter; can cope with an unstructured setting or a change in schedule;
  • Student asks for more challenging experience; exhibits confidence.


Excerpts from Davis, M., Sawin, K., Dunn, M. (1993). Teaching strategies used by expert nurse practitioner preceptors: A qualitative study. Journal of American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 5(1), 27-33.