5 Must-Have Tips on How to Secure a Preceptor

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If you are a nurse practitioner student, first of all congratulations on getting into a program and starting a challenging but soon to be very rewarding journey.  As you probably already know, part of this journey is completing hundreds of hours of clinicals.  Are your preceptors and clinical sites preselected and wrapped up in a beautiful bow waiting for you to choose them?  Haha … uh, nope!   Unfortunately, most programs do not help you find a preceptor and/or clinical site for your clinical rotations.  I was in a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program at the University of Cincinnati and completed 672 hours divided into Primary Care, Women’s Health/OB, Pediatrics, and a specialty of my choice.  I had to find at least four different preceptors which was stressful to say the least.   I learned a lot through trial and error and want to share 5 Tips on how to successfully secure (find and keep) a preceptor.

1. Start Early

By starting early I mean make your connections NOW!  If you are working as a registered nurse (RN) now in a practice or in a hospital, start making lasting impressions.  Also, start cashing in those owed favors (for example, taking the phone orders, etc.), attend networking events, ask your primary care providers, and your friends and family if their primary care provider will be your preceptor.  I landed two out of five preceptors by asking family and friends.

2.  Join LinkedIn

While you are schmoozing, sign up for a LinkedIn account if you haven't already. This is the most important tip.  LinkedIn has different plans — free and paid plans. The advantage the paid memberships is that you have unlimited searches, which is great if you are searching for practitioners by location and alma mater.  There are plenty of articles dedicated to creating a great LinkedIn profile like this from LinkedIn.  Once you have created an awesome profile and found the potential preceptors you want to make contact with — how do you approach them?  You should come up with a mini cover letter.  The mini cover letter should include an introduction of yourself, what school you are attending, your current semester, your experience, what you need and how can the potential preceptor can help you.  Be sure to include some kind of common denominator.  If they went to the University of Florida (UF) and you also went to UF, tell them how you “would be honored to learn from a fellow Gator.”  I created sample emails that you can receive below.  I was able to land my other three out of my five needed preceptors from connecting via LinkedIn.  

3. Use Online Preceptor Networks

There are two online nursing networks worth mentioning.   Hire Nurses and ENP Network.  Hire Nurses is a company that connects employers with caregivers.  Hire Nurses teamed up with Show Me Your Stethoscope and created a Nurse Practitioner Preceptor Program where students can create an online profile.  After you sign up for Nurse Practitioner Program you can directly message nurse practitioner preceptors.  The best thing about this option is that it is FREE!  Yessss! Another online network, ENP Network,  is a company that  helps nurse practitioners collaborate and connect online.  In order to gain access to available preceptors you have to pay for a 90 day of access pass which costs $90.

4.  Cold Call

Cold calling involves making calls to medical practices to ask if they accept nurse practitioner students for clinical rotations.  This one is not as tough as it sounds — if you are polite, get straight to the point, and make it easier for the person answering the phone — it will be less painful for both parties.  The good thing about this method is you can write out your script beforehand and read it if you are nervous.  Also, try not to call at inconvenient times for them, like first thing in the morning, close or during their lunch hour,  or around closing time.

5. Pay for a Preceptor

If all else fails, there are preceptor agencies that you can pay to pair you with a preceptor,  but you have to pay.   Now, you may find this method to be unreasonable or unthinkable, however, it is not as unreasonable as graduating a semester late because you did not have a preceptor, right? Also, paying for a preceptor takes all of the leg work out the equation.  You are basically hiring an agency to help place you with a preceptor and all you have to worry about is studying.  One such agency that stands out is Preceptor Link.  Preceptor Link is nurse practitioner owned and operated.  They work with nurse practitioner students around the country and they charge $12.50 per clinical hour.

 So, there you go!  I hope these resources help you land your clinical preceptor.  

P.S.  Once the nurse practitioner or physician agrees to be your preceptor, send them a hand written card to thank them!

 Good luck on your journey!

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