Preceptor Programs in Long-Term Care

Sherry Johnson
February 27, 2019
Formalizing a preceptor program is shown to improve morale, increase staff retention, and increase positive patient care outcomes.

Working in a long-term care facility is rewarding and challenging.  Today, residents are admitted with increasing medical complexities and social needs which creates a new demand on the staff that can drive dissatisfaction, burnout, and turnover.  Can using Preceptors increase staff retention, improve morale, and increase positive patient care outcomes? YES, according to researchers and experts in the industry. Administrative support, well-defined preceptor roles and responsibilities, consistent recognition, and continuing education designed to support teaching and practice techniques are the best practices of preceptor programs, according to Goss (2015).

Qualities of an Effective Preceptor

  • Clinical competency and confidence
  • Continual in personal learning pursuits
  • Teaching skills
  • Open to new people and ideas
  • Organizational skills
  • Commitment and desire to be a preceptor

Preceptor Roles

Preceptors serve in many different roles as they welcome and initiate the transition of staff from new hire to full-fledged team members. Let’s look at some of the roles of a preceptor.

  • Teacher – both formally and informally the preceptor is a teacher. Understanding how adults process information, their learning styles and preferences, is necessary to be an effective preceptor.
  • Coach – beginning with orientation and beyond, the preceptor provides learning opportunities through various resident care situations. Using questions and providing feedback, encouraging the preceptee to use clinical reasoning, identify solutions to problems, and to seek out resources when needed is a vital part of the preceptor role.
  • Socialization Agent – every facility has it own culture and temperament. The preceptor introduces new staff members to others, helps them understand the various roles and responsibilities of team members, and guides them to the right people and resources within the facility.
  • Role Model – through the daily encounters with the residents, families, and staff the preceptor demonstrates attitudes, skills, and actions used. New staff members learn from observing and working with the preceptor.

Building Communication

Well-defined communication patterns and practices are essential for an effective preceptor program.  Using daily check-ins and weekly feedback sessions between the preceptor, preceptee, and the supervisor or unit manager provides opportunities to adjust as needed and to celebrate successes.  When these formalized sessions are not part of the program, trust and confidence can break down and misaligned expectations can occur resulting in lower morale and dissatisfaction.  Even when the days are busy, and a million interruptions occur, do not miss this vital communication!

Keeping it Real

Formalizing a preceptor program is shown to improve morale, increase staff retention, and increase positive patient care outcomes.  If this is new for you, start with a plan.  Use the best practices identified and seek out resources as needed.  Preceptors guide each new hire to reach their full potential which ultimately makes the entire team stronger!


Goss, C. R. (2015). Systematic Review Building a Preceptor Support System. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, E7-E14.

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