So far, my medication musings have been about patient advocacy and the holistic approach that nurses take to medication management. This time, I want to discuss the importance of nurses as role models. My PhD research was about the experiences of nurses when administering medications. I searched for the positive contributions that we made to safe medication administration. Our place in patient safety is sometimes not noticed because the focus is on medication errors and practice-based problems. One of the key findings of my research was about the powerful influences of positive role models on the development of safe medication practices. In this blog, I’ll share some of what the research participants told me about preceptors.

They said the best teachers and preceptors were kind, caring, competent and constructive. Both novice and veteran nurses in my study recalled their positive role models as compassionate towards novice nurses. In helping, these professionals were said to enhance the capacity of others by demonstrating good practice and supporting the learners to achieve their potential. However, some preceptors were not nice, and their teaching style featured criticism and put-downs bordering on bullying. These preceptors instilled fear and anxiety in the learners who would dread having to perform medication administration in their presence.

Practising in supportive environments reduces fear and enhances confidence (Hayes et al. 2017). Likewise, anxiety producing contexts, that are sometimes created by the teachers can interfere with the leaner’s capacity for competence (Lin et al. 2014). Neglecting this causal relationship fails to notice the nuances of nursing practice networks.

The preceptor position around nursing students and novice nurses is a place of privilege.  But the culture of advocacy for our future professional’s needs strengthening to eliminate organisational violence. The incivility in nursing is ruining the experiences of some beginning practitioners and posing a problem for safe medication practice. Respect and reassurances were characteristics of positive preceptor practices described in my study. Making these the principles of preceptor practice would help students to rely on their preceptors as the reinforcers of professionalism and safety in everyday practice.

However, consideration also must be given to the context of the preceptor. In my experience, it’s common that nursing students are placed without consultation with the nurses who supervise them. Arrangements are made between the educational and health facilities months in advance. Consideration of the workload on the already busy preceptor is not possible. Therefore, the preceptor is ‘stuck’ with having to manage the complexities of the patient needs with the added demands of the learner’s needs. Not to mention the paperwork!!

Nurturing the novices and their teachers will enable them to practice with confidence and competence.

The ideas in this Blog are intended to provoke thoughts about caring for nursing colleagues old and new ?

regards  Julie Martyn PhD

The thoughts of this blog are of the individual writer and not necessarily those of the Nursing CPD Institute. To read our full disclaimer click here >>