3 Key Pieces of a Successful Preceptor Training Program

3 Key Pieces of a Successful Preceptor Training Program

Two children’s hospitals share information about their programs for training new preceptors.

Preceptors are a crucial piece of many hospitals’ staff training programs. While placing attention on their education and development as mentors is often a priority, it can be overshadowed with attention to onboarding and training new staff members themselves. 

Melinda Pascual, RN, B.S.N., CPN, manager of clinical education and professional development at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), and Debbie Reid, M.S.N., RN-BC, CPON, manager of clinical services professional development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), shared the details of their organizations’ preceptor training programs. Three areas of focus create a well-rounded training program.

Online learning

CHLA utilizes two Pediatric Learning Solutions (PLS) online courses as the base for their preceptor training: Precepting: Preceptor Roles and Responsibilities v5.0 and Precepting Adult Learners v5.0. View the objectives for these courses. 

“All staff enrolled in [our preceptor] workshop are required to do these modules prior to attending,” Reid said. “Our course is inter-professional, individuals from several different practice areas are represented. These courses provide a foundation, which will help them as we navigate through the curriculum.”

Following the prerequisite courses and workshop, preceptors receive training on CHLA’s competency validations via an online system. This provides an understanding of what is needed to validate someone as competent and supports consistency in determining competency.

CHOC uses the same PLS courses as a back-up for staff who need to begin precepting but are not able to attend an introductory workshop.

In-person seminars and workshops

While Pascual said CHOC prefers the in-person training format to online as a starting point, both organizations incorporated in-person seminars and training as part of their preceptor education programs, with several methods of approach.

Tiered training model

CHOC’s program consists of two classes. The first is for new preceptors and reviews the information presented in the PLS courses as well as providing organization-specific information. The second covers more advanced concepts. “We cover adult learning theories, leadership, difficult conversations, and just have a forum for discussion where preceptors can discuss scenarios in a safe place,” Pascual said.

Games and role play

CHLA uses a single workshop to explore even the more advanced topics in an interactive way. After a review of what learners should have retained from the PLS courses, staff are introduced to fictitious colleagues they will practice mentoring.

“For example: Scooby Doo is one of the new employees who is always scared and nervous,” Reid said. “Their understanding of adult learning allows them to apply principles to their character throughout the day.”

In addition to role play, attendees are given cups filled with water which represent the positive attributes of an effective preceptor and asked to fill an empty “preceptor cup” with their idea of the most important characteristics. 

"When the groups attempt to pour the water from each cup, into an empty preceptor cup, there is too much water for one cup, thus not allowing for the many different characteristics required to be a ‘good’ preceptor placed into one vessel,” Reid said. “This game starts the discussion about the different roles the preceptor has, the importance of each role and then tying things together with the Preceptor Roles module.”

Discussion and self-awareness

Reid said CHLA uses an interactive presentation called VARK (visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic) to help staff understand their personal learning styles as well as those of their colleagues, to increase their understanding of how their future preceptees may learn best. 

“This relates to what they gained while doing the [PLS] module, as they are given tools about the different styles and methods to support preceptee development.”

Organizing communications

Upon completion of the initial workshops at CHOC, ongoing communication provides support to preceptors through several methods: 

  • Electronic platform: Microsoft teams provides a space for preceptors to access information, resources, and peer discussion opportunities.
  • Meetings and huddles: The Registered Nurse Residency Educator organizes online meetings for staff to discuss standardized teaching strategies and to provide an alternative discussion format. “This also ties into preparing preceptors to be effective teachers,” Pascual said.

While these areas of focus are not all-encompassing for a successful program, they can serve as a source of inspiration for evaluating the completeness of existing programs.

“Our organization has grown exponentially in the last couple of years, and we recognize the need to support and grow our preceptors more,” Pascual said. “We are striving to develop a program for preceptors to grow themselves, their skills and their teaching abilities. I’m looking forward to more development in this area of our department.”

About PLS

Pediatric Learning Solutions’ online education provides the foundational knowledge clinicians need to master the competencies and skills for safe and effective patient care.