Healthcare Leadership

Practicum Placement and Preceptor Selection

Healthcare Leadership students will complete two practicum courses towards the end of the Healthcare Leadership specialty. The following will discuss some information about the courses and detail the student’s responsibility for selecting a practicum location and preceptor for each course. It is important for each student to begin planning for the two practicum courses soon after enrollment in the MSN in Healthcare Leadership specialty in order to be best prepared.

N386 is the Management Practicum I. A three credit course and the student will complete 210 hours for the practicum requirements.  It is expected that the student will spend 50% of the practicum hours with the preceptor and/or completing project work directed by the preceptor. The remaining time will be spent working on your practicum project and other course requirements. In this course, the students apply models of leadership, management, CQI, organizational behavior, outcome measurement, informatics, and financial management in a selected health care setting. This practicum provides students with an opportunity to work closely with a manager in a variety of health care settings. The students experience positive role modeling while contributing to the functioning of the health care agency. Students work on agency designated projects throughout the practicum and will produce a project presentation at the conclusion of the experience.  Prerequisites:  Healthcare Leadership students must have completed or be enrolled in all specialty and core courses. RN licensure required. 

N387 is the Management Practicum II. A four credit course and the student will complete 280 hours for the practicum requirements. It is expected that the student will spend 50% of the practicum hours with the preceptor and/or completing project work directed by the preceptor. The remaining time will be spent working on your practicum project and other course requirements. This practicum provides the student with an opportunity to work closely with a manager or administrator in a formal mentorship arrangement in a health care setting. The student has an opportunity to observe and practice management and leadership skills in a health care organization. The role of a leader is explored in the context of the changing health care environment. In addition, the student works on agency-designated projects and presents the process and results of a completed project. This practicum builds on skills and experiences attained in N386, Practicum I, of the Healthcare Leadership specialty. Students are assigned to a more senior leader in N387, and complexity of course deliverables is enhanced. Pre/co-requisite: N386. 

Q: Why does the student need to select and arrange the preceptor and practicum experience?

We have learned that the student generally is in the best position to identify people and sites that may be conducive for a practicum experience. Many times, students choose to complete their practicum in their workplace and know one or more people who qualify as preceptors. It is our intent to have the student shape the practicum that best fits your situation. 

Q: Who can you select to be a preceptor?

Your preceptor will be a masters prepared leader who is currently working in health care and who is willing to offer you the opportunity to observe and participate in the leadership and management activities in the organization. The preceptor does not have to be a nurse.

Q: What are some tips for approaching a potential preceptor? There are many tips for approaching a potential preceptor. They include:

  • Discuss clinical and preceptor needs with your faculty adviser or the course coordinator before approaching a new preceptor. Our faculty may be aware of VUSN graduates or previous preceptors who are practicing in your area of interest.
  • Gather information to give the potential preceptor. This may include the course overview, course objectives, the preceptor evaluation tool, the projected hours and time frame for your practicum, your CV, and your thoughts on possible projects that you would be interested in pursuing during the practicum experience. Please be clear on the number of hours per week that you anticipate spending with them for this experience. It may be 15 to 20 hours per week for 14 weeks, depending on the total number of hours required. 
  • After initial contact, make an appointment to meet with the prospective preceptor in person. At the very least, schedule a telephone call so that you may ask him/her directly if (s) he is interested in serving as a preceptor.
  • If your prospective preceptor declines, please ask him/her if (s) he has any recommendations for other possible preceptors. Often times, the first person you ask may have a conflict that prevents him/her from accepting you as a preceptee for that semester, but they may have others in their chain of influence that may be able to serve as preceptors. Please do not take offense if someone declines to be your preceptor. It is usually because they know their workload levels and are honest enough to tell you that they cannot give you the attention you deserve during this experience.

Q: Do I need an education contract for these practicum experiences?

Some organizations require that students serve under a formal contract with Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. If your organization is one that requires a contract, please contact the course coordinator and we will guide you in the process to have the contract completed. It may take 2-3 months to negotiate a contract. Other organizations, such as military hospitals and the Veterans Administration facilities, require contracts and other clearance paperwork before you start your practicum. If you plan to use a Federal facility for your practicum, please notify the course coordinator as soon as possible so that we may guide you through the process of completing all the requirements. This process can also take months to complete.

Q: When should I advise the course coordinator of my plans for the practicum course?

The course coordinator will generally send an email to all the enrolled students a month or so prior to the start of the semester. That email will request that you provide information on the preceptor and the practicum site.

Q: When can I start accumulating my practicum hours?

Most students start their hours on the first day of the course. Students work closely with the course coordinator to develop a plan to accumulate all needed hours for these two courses.

Q: Can I balance my work responsibilities while completing these practicum course hours?

Yes. Most, if not all, of our HL students are also working full time and are successful in balancing work and school responsibilities. In addition, most healthcare leaders value advanced education for their employees and many offer tuition assistance in support of this education. Most students complete their practicum courses at their workplace and are able to successfully negotiate the time necessary to complete the requirements and hours. Our HL faculty is available to meet and/or speak with supervisors and potential preceptors at any time to help you negotiate your practicum.