Pros and Cons of Becoming a Nurse Preceptor

  • Learn about the nurse preceptor role and how preceptors can help to alleviate the worsening nursing shortage. 
  • Explore the pros and cons of becoming a nurse preceptor and how the role may influence your nursing practice. 
  • Discover how serving in a preceptor role may benefit your nursing career in the long run. 

Charmaine Robinson


January 04, 2024
Simmons University

Have you been dodging your manager whenever they ask you to train a new nurse or nursing student? Do you have an interest in precepting, but you are questioning if you will be any good at it? Becoming a nurse preceptor may actually be a great move for your career. 

Nursing leaders are often assumed to be in charge of nurses, managers, and directors. However, nurse preceptors are nursing leaders as well. Some facilities offer a pay differential for nurses who act as preceptors.  

Nurse preceptors have a challenging job. Imagine working while teaching at the same time. While nursing instructors focus on teaching and staff nurses focus on patient care, a preceptor does both. The position deserves a great deal of recognition.  

Role of a Nurse Preceptor

Nurse preceptors are competent nurses who train and mentor new nurses and nursing students. Preceptors work in clinical, community, and academic settings. While preceptors are not formal instructors, they act as both nurses and educators. The role of a preceptor and clinical instructor is similar in that they both teach and evaluate learning.  

While it may be common to assume that a preceptor is simply a nurse who trains and is shadowed, preceptors have a greater responsibility. Typically, preceptors train according to a set of competencies that have been formulated by nursing educators.  

For example, in a hospital setting, a clinical educator may provide a preceptor with a packet that includes weekly goals that a new nurse must meet prior to being cleared to practice independently. As you can see, a preceptor is much more than a “nurse trainer.” Preceptors are leaders, mentors, and evaluators of learning.  

Nurse preceptors are needed to help train new and future nurses. In 2021, nursing schools had to turn down over 90,000 applicants due to various reasons, one of which was a lack of clinical preceptors.  

Ideally, preceptors should be nurses who desire to teach or mentor, but not every nurse has this interest. If you have an interest in teaching or mentoring new nurses or students, becoming a nurse preceptor may be a great move for you. Nursing needs you. Are you up for the challenge? 

Pros of Becoming a Nurse Preceptor

Although challenging, nurse precepting can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. While preceptorships benefit new nurses (and students), nurse preceptors can also benefit from the experience. Serving in this way can lead to both career and professional development opportunities. If you are unsure about taking the next step, look at these four benefits of precepting. 


Social Service 

According to the American Nurses Association, 18% of new graduate nurses leave the profession within the first year. Reasons include stress and lack of leadership and supervision. In addition, many prospective students are turned down from nursing schools due to lack of preceptors.  

By serving as a preceptor, you not only can act as a mentor and resource to new nurses by offering your expertise and support, but you can contribute to the expansion of the nursing workforce. With the ever-present nursing shortage worsening with each passing year, your service can help to both recruit and keep nurses in the profession for years to come. 


Professional Development 

If you simply want to be a better nurse, precepting may be a great option for you. Preceptors are not only mentors, but they are also role models. When you are a preceptor, you are held to a higher standard because a new nurse (or student) is watching you.  

Whether you realize it or not, you are training by example. Therefore, you are challenged to be a better nurse. Depending on the facility/organization, you may be required to complete special training to learn how to be a preceptor. These courses can provide an avenue for advanced learning and professional development as a nurse. 



If you have a passion for nursing leadership, becoming a nurse preceptor is a great place to start. The American Nurses Association describes nurse leaders as those who “inspire and influence others to achieve their maximum potential.”  

While preceptors may not serve in a managerial position or oversee a group of nurses, the qualities they possess make them leaders at heart. Preceptors are also chosen based on expertise, experience, clinical skills, and critical thinking ability – great skills for leadership roles. For this reason, many preceptors also act as resources for their peers.  


Career Advancement 

Becoming a nurse preceptor is a great way to prepare for a career in nursing education. There is a growing nursing faculty shortage in the U.S. In 2022, over 2,000 nursing faculty positions were vacant in over 900 nursing schools across the country. If you have an interest in teaching nursing or health-related content, this may be a great option for you.  

Nurse precepting is a great stepping stone for positions as a clinical nurse educator, clinical instructor, nursing professor, or community health educator (for example, teaching CPR courses). As a preceptor, you will become familiar with the process of teaching and evaluating learning– the two foundational principles for nursing education. 

Cons of Becoming a Preceptor

While there are great benefits of serving as a preceptor, there are some challenges that nurses should consider. Preceptors can experience burnout specifically related to the role. According to the American Nurses Association, there are many causes of nurse preceptor burnout, and most are related to role responsibilities and lack of recognition and support. Here are three challenges that you may encounter as a preceptor. 


Additional Role Responsibilities 

Working as a nurse can be hard in and of itself. However, preceptors also have to train while being responsible for ensuring that a nurse does not make any errors. The role can be very taxing. In addition, it may be difficult to complete your own assignments/tasks.  

While you may delegate certain tasks to the new nurse (or student), there are still tasks that you as the nurse will likely have to complete. Nurse preceptors also have the added responsibility of assessing new nurses’ learning needs and implementing learning plans that are provided by the department educator. For some, the burden may be difficult to bear and lead to burnout.  


Attitude Toward the Preceptor as an “Extra Resource”  

As a preceptor, you may experience feeling as though you are an extra nurse who is frequently called to help other nurses or perform other tasks in the department. This is especially the case when the new nurse is nearing the end of the training program. If you are precepting for 12 weeks, by the end of week 10 you may notice that the new nurse needs very little help from you. Your coworkers and managers may see this as an opportunity to start requesting additional tasks from you that are unrelated to your preceptor role.  

However, your sole responsibility is to ensure that the new nurse practices safely. The downtime can be used to review the new nurse’s documentation, fill out the new nurse evaluation forms (if applicable), and observe how the new nurse is adjusting. While teamwork is great, you should always be available should the new nurse need you. 


Lack of Support and Recognition 

Preceptors can burn out when they are not provided the proper support that they need. Part of this support includes recognition and adequate preceptor role training. Preceptors are not required to have an advanced degree, which might otherwise teach them how to be an educator. To make matters worse, some facilities/organizations may not offer preceptor training courses.  

For this reason, many preceptors may not know how to assess learning needs, develop learning plans, implement these plans, and evaluate performance. Without a preceptor training program, preceptors may be confused about their role. Another way preceptors can feel unsupported is through lack of acknowledgment. As a preceptor, you may not receive any pay differential or other compensation for your service (although some do). There may also be a lack of formal recognition of your role.   

The Bottom Line

If you have an interest in precepting, weigh the pros and cons and talk to your department educator or manager. Ask them what you need to do in order to become a nurse preceptor. Often times, your interest alone can make you a great candidate.  

If your facility/organization does not offer formal preceptor training, there are many nursing professional development courses and resources that can prepare you for the role. If you have never thought of precepting before, consider giving it a try for one day.  

When you see nursing students training with their instructors in your department, ask to be assigned a student to shadow you for the day. From there, you may develop an interest in training new graduate nurses and possibly discover that you have a knack for teaching and would make a great nursing instructor one day. 

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