Teaching comes naturally to some people, and the best way for nurses to utilize this talent is to become a nurse preceptor. In nursing terminology, a preceptor is someone who serves as something of a clinical instructor, guiding new nurses through the profession and offering insight, helpful information, and clinical knowledge. Working as a preceptor isn’t something that just any nurse can do, however. As with virtually all professional positions within the medical field, this work requires careful preparation, a bit of additional education, and significant professional experience that can provide the proper amount of context for beginning nurses. For this reason, nurses aspiring to this role should consider the various requirements and processes required to teach their fellow professionals.

Educational Requirement: A Bachelor’s Degree is Preferred

Nursing is one of the few professions to require only a two-year degree for entry-level work. When it comes to being a preceptor, however, nurses will need to go above and beyond this entry-level requirement if they wish to land the role and truly succeed in instructing new nurses. Most hospitals and clinical practices will require that preceptors have at least a four-year degree in the nursing field.

The good news is that nurses who have already earned a two-year degree can easily take part in an online or offline BSN program to meet this benchmark (please see: Top 10 Cheap Online RN to BSN Degree Programs 2014). Many nurses enroll in BSN programs after a few years on the job, using their work experiences as a way to guide them through the coursework and toward great academic success. Nurses who already have a BSN may wish to pursue their Master of Science in Nursing if they want to bolster their credentials even further. As with BSN programs, MSN degrees can often be pursued online or off.

Practical Work Experience as a Nurse is Absolutely Essential

An education alone will not suffice for nurses who wish to enter into a preceptorship. Because the goal of this position is to offer insight and helpful advice to nurses who are in their first clinical experience after graduation, the preceptor must have enough experience and professional knowledge to be able to truly benefit the nurse they are paired with. In most cases, today’s hospitals and clinics will require aspiring preceptors to have been on the job for a minimum of five years. This is not a guarantee of landing the job, however. Many of the best preceptors are nurses who have more than 20 years of experience in a large variety of professional settings. The competition is stiff, so nurses should always be burnishing their credentials and improving their professional histories as they pursue their goal of landing this particular job.

Healthy Professional Relationships Really Matter

Finally, nurses need to show that they can develop strong, understanding personal relationships with their fellow nurses The preceptor is, first and foremost, a mentor. A healthy relationship with coworkers, and perhaps with the nurse who will be mentored, is important. This healthy relationship ensures that the preceptor’s skills and insights are respected and put into practice, rather than resented and ignored. It’s an absolutely crucial way to show that the aspiring preceptor will be effective in the role and truly make a difference in the life and professional experience of a new nursing graduate. Along with education and experience, a healthy sense of respect for fellow nurses will help in the long process required to become a nurse preceptor.