Section Three

Preceptorship and Mentorship for Nursing Faculty

In order to effectively support nursing students in acquisition of knowledge that is evidence- and best practice-based, nursing faculty themselves must receive adequate professional development and support to be up to date on the evidence (RNAO, 2016e). Faculty and educator perceived knowledge and expertise in the subject area has been linked to playing a key role in the optimal promotion of mental health knowledge (Lang & Hahn, 2013). Educational institutions should be aware of the extent of clinical experience and education among faculty, understand whether theoretical and clinical education is current and provide ongoing professional development opportunities either through the practice setting or educational institution to promote the continued transfer of theory to practice (RNAO, 2016e).

Successful preparation of nursing educators requires a combination of education, experience, knowledge and assessment skills that must be supported through allocated time for initial and ongoing professional development (RNAO, 2016e). Professional development opportunities should incorporate education regarding best practices in theoretical components of nursing education, provide opportunities to enhance leadership skills, and provide best practices on clinical teaching strategies, adult learning theories and strategies for student evaluation. Such educational opportunities ensure faculty has the competence and confidence necessary to support students and has been demonstrated to improve quality of work satisfaction (RNAO, 2016e). Effective models of professional development can include preceptorship and mentorship for nursing faculty.

What is preceptorship?

Preceptorship is a formal process of providing guidance and support to another. The relationship is led by an experienced and competent nurse who facilitates the learning and development of the learner (Canadian Nurses Association [CNA], 2004). A preceptor is a one-on-one relationship of a predetermined length, between two individuals designed to adjust to and perform a new role (CNA, 2004).


  • Is assigned to facilitate a preceptee’s learning goals.
  • Is assigned for a set period of time, usually short-term.
  • Is assigned with a focus on learning related to knowledge and skill.
  • Is acting as a role model, during regular working hours.
  • Can evolve into a mentorship relationship.

Who is the preceptee?

A preceptee can be a nurse with five, 10 or even 15 years’ clinical experience, but who is new to a different teaching area, unit and to caring for a different population of patients. A preceptee may have limited clinical experience and most of those experiences are in the more supported student/school role.

Preceptor responsibilities

Preceptors act as guides or mentors to the preceptee. To facilitate the learner’s acquisition of the nursing knowledge and skills for safe, competent and ethical practice, preceptors must display certain characteristics and be able to demonstrate the competencies required to teach and role model professional behaviours, nursing skills and values.

Key characteristics of effective preceptors include:

1. Competence in the practice role.
2. Experienced in the role.
3. Strong leadership and conflict management skills.
4. Enthusiasm.
5. Strong teaching, role-modeling and facilitation skills.
6. Patience and a positive attitude.
7. Excellent oral and written communication skill.
8. An ability to coach and provide constructive feedback.

Preceptors and Clinical Supervision

Preceptors may provide clinical supervision and have a responsibility to provide clinical teaching, instruction and formal evaluation (RNAO, 2016). Clinical supervision is “a formal process of professional support and learning, which enables individual practitioners to develop knowledge and competence, assume responsibility for their own practice and enhance consumer protection and safety of care in complex clinical situations” (Department of Health, 1993, p.15). It provides regular protected time for health-care practitioners to come together to reflect on clinical practice and examine areas of personal and professional growth and work towards achieving these goals. It can occur using a variety of models that include, one-on-one support, peer support, groups and include use of technology such as online supports and telephone supports. For more information on clinical supervision, please see Resources in this section.

What is mentorship?

According to the CNA (2004) definition, mentoring involves a voluntary, mutually beneficial and usually long-term professional relationship. In this relationship, one person is an experienced and knowledgeable leader (mentor) who supports the maturation of a less-experienced person (mentee) with leadership potential.


  • Is chosen or selected by the mentee.
  • Is usually selected by the mentee to support their professional advancement for an extended period of time.
  • Focuses on individual growth and development.
  • Is a nurturing and role-modeling relationship, usually during personal time.

For additional tools and resources please refer to Resources in this section.