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What Is a Preceptor in Nursing?

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Mar 1, 2024
Nursing Preceptor With Other Nurses During a Hospital Simulation.

What Is a Preceptor in Nursing?

Aspiring nurses can benefit greatly from professional mentorship and education. This is one reason why nurse preceptors deliver experienced mentorship opportunities as part of nursing degree programs. While mentorship is what a preceptor in nursing is most known for, this role also offers many education and patient care duties. Nursing professionals can explore this role in greater detail to see if it aligns with their educational qualifications and career goals.

The Role of a Preceptor in Nursing

Combining the roles of nurse, teacher, and mentor, a preceptor works closely with educational programs to provide real industry experience to nursing students and nurses at the beginning of their careers. During these mentoring engagements, students and nurses model the role, responsibilities, and clinical methods of a nurse in their specific area, all under the watchful eye of the preceptor.

While nurse preceptors are mentors and instructors, they should also promote independence in the workplace. The goal of a preceptor is to train nurses to be both effective and independent in their practice.

Preceptor Responsibilities in Nursing

What a preceptor in nursing is responsible for varies depending on the hospital or health care facility. Most preceptors are responsible for the following tasks.

  • Supervising new nurses and nursing students
  • Maintaining a safe and learning-conducive workplace environment
  • Continuing to perform clinical duties and provide patient care
  • Communicating with instructors regarding nursing student performance
  • Facilitating and monitoring learning experiences in clinical environments

As a mentor, professional nurse, and liaison between a health care facility and an educational institution, a preceptor must be excellent at managing multiple responsibilities. The career path can be highly rewarding for those who wish to instruct and inspire new nurses while also performing clinical duties.

Mentoring Nursing Students

Early-career mentoring is a key step in the journey of a nurse. Preceptors play a unique role at this stage, mentoring and evaluating new nurses. Generally, preceptors are mentors for a specified period, working closely with instructors to evaluate student performance. While experienced nurses can also choose to mentor nurses throughout their careers, preceptors may play a more holistic role in providing instruction, encouragement, and mentorship early on in nurses’ careers. 

Facilitating Clinical Competencies

Preceptors are also charged with evaluating the clinical competencies of student nurses and recent nurse graduates. While preceptors aren’t expected to make the final decision on a nurse’s performance, they need to communicate the level of clinical proficiency and competency displayed by students. This helps nursing program instructors make informed decisions about the abilities and skill levels of students.

Salary Expectations of Nursing Preceptors

The median salary of a nurse preceptor is about $66,600 per year as of November 2023, according to the aggregate salary website Payscale. Salaries can range from $60,000 to $72,000,  depending on factors such as location, experience, facility, and more. To find out what a preceptor in nursing can expect to make, interested nurses should review local salary estimates and consider their own professional experience.

How to Become a Preceptor

The requirements to become a preceptor in nursing include completing educational requirements, gaining practical experience, and holding a set of relevant skills. Nurses interested in this position should reflect on each of the following areas to pursue this career.

Educational Requirements

While the specific requirements vary between nursing education programs, preceptors typically need to be advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). This means many programs require preceptors to have earned a master’s degree in nursing, usually a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Some programs only require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Those who want to make a career change to nursing should also consider undergraduate education. 

Work Experience Expectations

Mentoring, teaching, and evaluating new nurses requires a skilled professional. In some settings, this means at least one year of experience, though other institutions recommend two or more years of nursing experience. This allows preceptors to fulfill their duties while instructing and assisting new nurses and nursing students.

Necessary Skills for Success

A successful nursing preceptor should have a range of communication and technical skills, including the following.

  • Active listening. Preceptors must carefully listen to nursing students and patients to deliver quality care and instruction.
  • Attention to detail. Whether evaluating students or monitoring patients, preceptors must carefully analyze details before making decisions.
  • Effective communication. This leadership role requires strong professional communication skills through sharing patient information, evaluating clinical competencies, and giving feedback.
  • Technical expertise. Nursing preceptors must have a deep understanding of clinical best practices, effectively understanding and applying medical theory and knowledge.

Pursue a Career as a Preceptor

Now that you know what a preceptor in nursing is, it’s time to explore this career path and take the next step. The University of Tulsa offers an online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program, where students can earn their BSN degree in as little as 12 months. This accelerated online program includes in-depth explorations of nursing leadership topics and foundational nursing courses. 

Find out if becoming a nurse preceptor fits your career goals today.

Recommended Readings:

What Can You Do With a BSN?

The Benefits of Nurse Mentoring

What Is a Unit Manager in Nursing?


American Nurse Journal, “Nurse Preceptors and New Graduate Success”

AORN Journal, “Tips for Being an Effective Nurse Preceptor”

BMC Medical Education, “Nurse Preceptors’ Perceptions of Benefits, Rewards, Support, and Commitment to the Preceptor Role in a New Preceptorship Program”

Indeed, “What Is a Nurse Preceptor? (And How to Become One)”

Nursing and Midwifery Council, “Principles of Preceptorship”

Payscale, Average Nurse Preceptor Hourly Pay

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