Technology And The Nurse Preceptor: The Future Of Healthcare
The role of a preceptor was historically a registered nurse who mentored and led nurses entering the field, providing support during their transition. But this role has become even more crucial with the emersion of technology in healthcare. Preceptors are now serving new nurses using medical tools and technology. Multiple technologies have found their way into healthcare systems and serve to streamline and improve care for patients, as well as daily roles for clinicians.
Virtual technology is already playing a vital role in nurse education. Many nursing schools utilized virtual reality during the pandemic for student practice scenarios. Helping students progressively increase their patient loads and the complexity of patient’s medical conditions.
Technology allows nurse preceptors to educate via video conferencing, educational websites, and secure messaging platforms.[i]
The pandemic negatively affected education, preventing sufficient hands-on practical training and in-person learning due to shutdowns.
“Virtual care, which exploded during the pandemic, can improve access to care, especially for patients who struggle to attend appointments in person. It can also help address social determinants of health (SDoH), contributing to 80-90% of healthy outcomes for a population. It enables providers to use virtual home-based visits to assess how patients’ living conditions affect the care they receive.
“Effective virtual care, however, requires training. An overwhelming majority (77 percent) of faculty members at nursing schools believe that they need such training before they can begin to incorporate what they learn into classroom content, simulations, and clinical experiences. Similarly, Chief Nursing Officers (CNOs) must implement training to help staff members understand why, when, and how to use this technology. They must anticipate potential barriers and carefully consider how to integrate telehealth into existing workflows. Because telehealth provides a window into patient and caregiver living conditions, staff can observe people in their home environments. Those trained for telehealth visits must understand the nuanced dynamics of delivering care remotely.
“CNOs must recognize that implementing these new models of care depends on three pillars:
- improved access to evidence
- a commitment to health equity
- support for nurses’ resilience” iii
Technology already serves continuously in healthcare and HC education settings. Virtual learning in online training and education is sometimes necessary to provide coverage when instructor shortage exists or when coursework can be completed outside of a classroom setting.
“Virtual reality (VR) simulation and high-fidelity simulation that uses realistic, life-like manikins (a full-body patient simulator) to mimic human anatomy and physiology are already being used by training programs to teach clinical skills safely in a controlled environment.”[ii]
The nursing shortage has pointed to a growth in clinical preceptors for nursing to develop and oversee education for more high-quality care to be provided for patients.
“Preceptors are experienced licensed clinicians who act as teachers and coaches who supervise nursing students during their clinical rotations. Their role is to help students translate theoretical learning into real-world clinical practice. Preceptors are needed for all levels of nursing education. Programs offering bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, post-master’s certificates, and doctoral degrees all rely on preceptors to mentor students.”[iii]
As those with advanced experience, typically APRNs, are most often preceptors, each program varies in its requirements. Currently, preceptors are in need nationwide for educating nursing students to accommodate the most recent climate of healthcare.
What A Preceptor Does
“Preceptors bridge the gap between theoretical learning and clinical practice. They guide students in meeting clinical objectives and delivering safe and quality patient care.
“Preceptors educate nursing students through observation and direct instruction. Students are given immediate feedback and more formal assessments through written evaluations.
“Preceptor Responsibilities Include:
- Bridging the gap between theory and actual practice
- Orienting students to practice setting, organizational and institutional policies, and key personnel
- Assisting students in planning clinical assignments based on course objectives and student-articulated learning needs
- Providing supervision of students on a one-to-one clinical basis until the student and preceptor deem direct supervision is no longer necessary
- Providing weekly feedback to students
- Reviewing and co-signing all student documentation in clinical records
- Submitting a Student Evaluation Form of the practice experience to the Clinical Faculty Advisor, as requested
- Serving as a role model to nursing students
- Maintaining an open line of communication with the student’s advisor.” [iv]
Some technologies on which preceptors are educating incoming nurses:
- mHealth applications
- Patient and clinician use of organization health portals
- Virtual care
- Virtual observation
The Return of Experienced Nurses?
The nurse preceptor model can be well served by experienced nursing staff members. The model, in combination with new technology, provides a place for those clinicians who may be considering early retirement or even an attraction for already-retired nurses to return to the profession. It may be critical for veteran nurses to be available to serve the preceptor model.
There is a hope that improved nursing models combined with technology may entice a return to the profession by those who’ve left their field due to burnout or retirement, especially as preceptors and educators are needed for their experience to train new students. The average age of nurses is currently 52, and it is predicted that up to 4 million may retire by 2030. xiii
“There’s a huge work effort right now around what is called the “unique nurse identifier,” which is a number that every nurse has once they’re licensed. When you take your state board exam, you get a unique ID from the National Council State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Even if a nurse is licensed in different states or relocates throughout their career, their work is all tied back to that unique ID. This effort is being supported by the Alliance for Nursing Informatics and the Nursing Knowledge Big Data Science Group, in which I participate, to support using the unique nurse identifier across technologies throughout healthcare. This will give the ability to discreetly tie back the outcomes of patients to nurses. One healthcare organization, HCA, has been doing some pilots to look at the movement of nurses across specialties. The results of these pilots will help organizations identify what skills somebody has if they have a particular need. Technology can only help us do this, however, if we begin to discreetly track the NCSBN ID. We are advocating that technology vendors create a place within their system where if you identify a provider and that provider is a nurse, they ingest the NCSBN ID. There’s even a free API so that vendors can include the NCSBN ID within the context of their systems, and that’s another way their system could be interoperable.” xiii.
Technology in healthcare linked with preceptors can endlessly benefit incoming nurses to the workforce. It requires a clinician with excellent communication skills and the desire to teach technology and offer all types of constructive feedback to trainees, as well as a true passion for nursing and the ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Qualities of enthusiasm, empathy, and the ability to promote autonomy are also crucial for training and educating new nurses.[v]
In partnership with continuing advancements in virtual care technology, the updated preceptor model is working to pave the way for prospective nursing professionals and installing itself as a standard component of training and education for the future.