preceptors and students


preceptor is a health care professional who collaborates with faculty by facilitating and providing supervision for a student learning experience in a practice or systems setting.  A preceptor serves as a mentor and teacher while assisting the student to develop new competencies required for safe, ethical and quality advanced nursing practice or for a health care systems role. Preceptors support the student by setting expectations, providing appropriate learning opportunities, and providing effective feedback needed to achieve competence in the advanced nursing practice, nursing leader or nursing informatics roles.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) provide definitions of preceptors and their contribution to nursing education:

Precepting is a challenging and rewarding experience. Working with nursing students is a way to give back and help shape the next generation of nursing professionals in your area of practice. You will play a vital role in educating your future colleagues by preparing them for practice through real-world experiences. Teaching is not just a learning opportunity for students; it's also a challenge that inspires you to grow and develop as a provider and as a leader. Read more about the tangible and intangible benefits of precepting.

VUSN preceptors are not directly reimbursed. However, there are many tangible benefits that come along with being part of the VUSN preceptor community, including:

  • You may fulfill requirements for recertification in your specialty. Many certifying bodies recognize preceptorship as evidence of continuing professional development. Please refer to your certifying body for specific information related to recertification requirements. VUSN will provide necessary documentation for your recertification application.
  • You will gain professional development as an educator and advanced nursing leader. This can be listed on your resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Preceptors are welcome to apply for adjunct or adjoint faculty appointments at VUSN. These appointments carry VU-related benefits. Click here to learn more.
  • You will grow in your own knowledge, skills and professional practice.

Requirements to be a preceptor differ by nursing specialty, and may include the following:

  • Have an active, unencumbered health care provider license.
  • Be prepared at the educational level of the student’s degree program or higher.
  • Have at least one year of practice experience as a licensed health care provider.
  • Actively practice with a population or focus consistent with the student’s program of study.
  • Ensure that the practice environment provides student experiences sufficient for immersion in the role and achievement of practice competencies.
  • Other requirements as determined by provider role and specialty focus (please see Expectations and Requirements).

If your practice site is located within 150 miles of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, your location is within the “Middle Tennessee Area” or an “MTA” site. In this case, you will be contacted directly by our Clinical Placement Office (CPO). Our CPO will request a placement for our students and will work with you and/or your Practice Manager to complete an affiliation agreement to set up the clinical learning experience. After the agreement is finalized and executed, and after the student has met all school and clinical site compliance requirements, the student may begin to work with you.

If your practice site is located outside of a 150-mile radius of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, your location is “outside of the Middle Tennessee Area” or an “OMTA” site. In this case, our student will contact you directly to request a preceptorship with you. Students may request the following information:

  • Your name and email address and preferred contact information
  • Your license number and a copy of your current curriculum vitae (CV)
  • The name and location of the practice site
  • The primary phone number of the practice site
  • Name, phone number and email address of the practice site manager or contract specialist (if applicable)

After the student submits this information to our office, VUSN faculty will contact you to ensure that your practice environment is consistent with the student’s learning needs and objectives, and to answer any questions you might have. Once approved by faculty, the Clinical Placement Office will facilitate the approval of an affiliation agreement. After the agreement is finalized and executed, and after the student has met all school and clinical site compliance requirements, the student may begin to work with you.

  • Students may identify their own preceptorship opportunities or faculty may assist with securing a preceptor and site.
  • The preceptor must have a master’s degree or equivalent.
  • Students may request the following:

Under your supervision and guidance, students are expected to obtain relevant competencies consistent with the program’s systems or advanced nursing practice role and populations served. Program faculty will provide you with resources that explain goals and competencies required for successful completion of the practicum.

For example, for nurse practitioner and nurse-midwifery students, core competencies include obtaining health histories, performing physical exams, assessing and diagnosing patients and developing comprehensive patient treatment plans in collaboration with you. In addition, you will mentor students during the rotation and encourage practicum experiences of increasing complexity and a greater degree of autonomy, as appropriate for the student’s knowledge and experience.  You will complete student evaluations and faculty will regularly communicate with you regarding student progress.

Students enter clinical rotations with varying degrees of experience and confidence; you commit to working with our student to meet established competencies. Time committed to hands-on student interactions will vary based upon student expertise, experience and degree of autonomy. Students will require more in-depth mentorship in the initial phase of their practicum experience.

No, you are not committed to taking a student every semester. Our affiliation agreement in no way obligates you to have a student every semester. You can have students as often as you would like. Note: Our Nursing Informatics and Nursing and Health Care Leadership programs often utilize the same preceptor and practicum site for a student’s entire practicum experience.

If you are a primary preceptor, the student is expected to either complete a majority of their practicum hours with you, or for you to be their primary resource. However, many sites with multiple providers may take advantage of the opportunity for students to spend at least some time with additional preceptors, which exposes the student to different perspectives and provides a broader practicum experience.

Students should take an active role in the practicum experience and should participate as a member of the team, contributing more fully as they gain knowledge and confidence in the role. As the practicum progresses, students should demonstrate greater autonomy in their ability to utilize data, to assess and prioritize problems, and to develop plans for change.  You should continue to supervise all practicum activities and verify all student findings. Students should only participate in or perform activities appropriate for their scope of practice under your direct supervision.

Yes, VUSN provides malpractice and liability insurance for all students. You are expected to have your own malpractice insurance, either an individual or employer policy. A copy of the student’s malpractice insurance can be provided by the Clinical Placement Office.

Our students are expected to be professional, punctual and prepared to perform in accordance with established standards of the practice. They should demonstrate the ability to manage progressively complex situations in accordance with academic progression.

Students will develop a schedule to have approved by you. Students are expected to keep this schedule. They are expected to discuss all patients with you as you validate clinical findings. When possible, students can document patient visits in the medical record and have the documentation verified and co-signed by you.

Absolutely! Program faculty maintain regular contact with every clinical student through activities such as seminars, skills labs and simulation experiences. Systems students also maintain regular contact with VUSN faculty. Faculty monitor a student’s progress in a variety of ways which may include the completion of a practice site visit on-site or virtually.  Additionally, faculty may contact you to check in and provide guidance, and you are encouraged to contact faculty with any concerns you may have regarding a student’s learning needs, performance or progression.  While we ask that you evaluate the student’s performance during the practicum experience, VUSN faculty will determine the final course grade.

You are asked to regularly evaluate the student’s progress in achieving identified competencies during the practicum experience. Your evaluation and feedback are important to student improvement and continued professional development. Preceptors do not determine the final grade for a practicum course, though your feedback is extremely valuable and vital to student success.

You will be asked to complete evaluations during the practicum rotation. Faculty will be communicating regularly with you regarding the student’s progress, through either direct contact or through evaluation surveys.

Faculty welcome the opportunity to speak with preceptors at any time. Our goal is to support you during the student’s rotation. If you have any concerns regarding a student’s performance or progression in meeting learning needs and competencies, you are asked to contact the student’s practicum faculty. If deficiencies are identified, the faculty will meet with you and the student to discuss learning needs, identify areas for remediation, and you will work together to develop a plan for improvement including follow-up and evaluation.