Nursing Opinion

The value of preceptorship: A new project to establish and promote a national preceptorship framework

Desiree Cox

Desiree Cox, National Preceptorship Programme Lead, NHS England and NHS Improvement

The most challenging, and exciting, time for nurses is the first few months post-registration as they transition into their professional role as autonomous practitioners.  It is a time for consolidating the learning from pre-registration education, developing competence and embracing opportunities to grow in confidence.

High quality preceptorship programmes are pivotal in supporting the new registrant, helping them to navigate around their new organisation, guiding them in their development and supporting them through the challenges.  The role of the preceptor is essential as a critical friend and advocate who can listen, answer questions and support them. A trained and engaged preceptor facilitates introductions, signposts opportunities, supports development and helps in establishing effective networks.  This support from day one can make a vast difference to how a new registrant settles into an organisation and influences their decision to stay or leave an organisation.  However not every new registrant is receiving a good quality preceptorship experience or the critical support needed in the first few months.  The retention of nurses in social care settings represents an even greater challenge, with turnover in 2019/20 standing at 41.3% compared to 9.4% in the NHS for registered nurses, according to workforce analysis reported in the Nursing Times (October 2021).[1]

The Nursing and Midwifery Council Principles of Preceptorship (NMC, 2020) for nursing highlighted the importance of preceptorship and identified five key areas in the provision of quality preceptorship programmes.  Whilst preceptorship programmes exist, it is the quality of the experience that makes a real difference.  This includes engagement from all staff, a structured learning programme, confident, trained preceptors to provide guidance and support and a positive culture in which the new registrant feels confident to ask questions and seek advice.

There are some excellent examples of good practice around the country.  In London, the CapitalNurse Preceptorship Framework launched in 2018, developed in collaborations with stakeholders, provides a set of best practice guidelines for organisations across London to implement preceptorship.  A quality mark is awarded to organisations meeting certain criteria to promote their preceptorship programme for new registrants.  Evaluation of the programme shows improved experience for preceptees and a positive impact on recruitment and retention of nurses in the first two years post-registration.

Building on the success of the London programme, NHS England and NHS Improvement’s National Retention Programme is supporting a new project to design and deliver a national preceptorship framework. The framework will include a set of core standards for all healthcare settings providing a consistent approach to supporting new registrants in nursing post qualification. Research and scoping has been carried out with health and social care organisations around the country to identify examples of best practice and to share learning experiences.

Design of the framework is currently underway with a project delivery group of professionals representing different geographical regions, as well as a range of health and social care settings.  Incorporating core standards, role definitions and documentation templates, the framework will be flexible for use in all settings and adoptable by other professional groups.  There will be a quality mark for organisations who are able to demonstrate they meet the gold standard in providing preceptorship.

Led by NHS London, this exciting project is under the leadership of Dr Jane Wray (Senior Clinical Nurse Advisor) and Desiree Cox (Programme Lead) and supported by the National Workforce Skills Development Unit.  It involves extensive collaboration with stakeholders around the country including representatives from health and social care organisations, professional bodies and those involved in delivering and receiving preceptorship. The new national preceptorship framework will be in place for this summer for implementation and roll-out to organisations later this year with stakeholder engagement events planned for June.

More information can be found at National Preceptorship Framework and follow our live feeds @desireecox07, @livinginhope, @raleen and live feeds at #NationalPreceptorship

[1] Social care sector struggling with nurse ‘churn’, finds report | Nursing Times

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