Praise your preceptors 

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Rewards and recognition to enhance job satisfaction

After reading this article, you will be able to:

  • Identify methods to increase satisfaction among preceptors
  • Describe one strategy facilities can implement to determine the rewards their preceptors want

The right person in the preceptor role boosts job satisfaction of new nurses and raises retention rates at a facility. But keeping the preceptor role filled means keeping your preceptors satisfied—something that takes thought from every nurse manager.

“With the nursing shortage, [we] will increasingly be using preceptors, and we want to make rewards that are important to them,” says Connie J. Rowles, DSN, CNAA, BC, clinical associate professor at the Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis. Rowles has helped train approximately 800 preceptors during her career.

New research supports the recognition of nurse preceptors: A recent article in the Journal for Nurses in Staff Development concluded after a mailed survey of 86 nursing preceptors that they “require higher-quality preparation, systematic support, and acknowledgment of their work.”

Recognizing preceptors is essential to keeping motivated people in the role, says Monika E. Dutton, MSN, RN, NE-BC, project director for the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program® at Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, SC, where preceptors are aptly called “clinical coaches.”

Identify your preceptors’ wish lists

The importance of preceptors is widely recognized. A recent Nursing Economic$ study noted that when it comes to preceptorships, “many healthcare institutions have found this role effective in improving orientation of new nursing staff, and an important support to retention of nursing personnel.” However, once the importance of preceptor recognition is identified, what’s the next step in choosing rewards?

Along with colleague Cynthia L. Stone, DrPH, RN, associate professor in the department of public health at Indiana University, Rowles decided to make sure the rewards chosen were significant and meaningful to her preceptors. They thought the best strategy for choosing appropriate rewards was to just ask. Thus, the pair, along with nurse managers and staff educators from local hospitals, surveyed active preceptors at the university to determine their wants and wishes. (The survey they distributed is on p. 9.)

“It was really interesting,” Rowles says. “We found that the major things involved treating them like they’re good people. And many suggestions were pretty simple and cost-effective.”

These suggestions included general events of recognition, such as offering an appreciative lunch or a Preceptor of the Year award. But Rowles realized through the survey that rewards should be based on the recipient.

“It has to be varied,” she says. “One strategy is not going to work for all. That’s where the survey came in.”

Institute assorted rewards

Preceptor rewards that Rowles and Dutton have found to be effective include:

Writing thank-you notes. “The biggest thing people can do is recognize people with something as simple as a thank-you note,” Rowles says. “Those little things mean a lot to people.”

Dutton adds that preceptors often receive personal thank-you notes from the vice president of nursing once they have completed a session with a new orientee.

Providing active learning in training. When teaching and training preceptors, make it interactive and engaging, Rowles says. “Make sure they’re not listening to a talking head at the front of the room,” she adds. This helps them recognize your desire to keep them absorbed and well prepared for the role.

Holding an exclusive celebration. As part of a bigger hospital commemoration during Nurses Week, Dutton says successful preceptors take part in an annual celebratory reception. “It gives special recognition,” she says. “It can be made as big or small as is fitting, depending on cost and available resources.”

Presenting preferred scheduling. Offering preceptors priority when choosing shift slots could serve as an effective incentive and reward for doing well.

Offering rungs on the clinical ladder. Preceptors can be offered job advancement after serving in the role for a specified amount of time, Rowles says.

Prudently distributing monetary compensation. Rowles and Dutton disagree about whether money should be offered as a preceptor reward. Whereas Rowles says her facility intentionally “did not consider paying preceptors extra,” Dutton says she has found offering a monetary reward after the completion of a session to be a “way of ensuring [that preceptors] follow through with all the steps and meet the criteria.

“Most often, preceptors say you don’t have to reward them, but the fact is that you do have to, because that builds the profession in terms of collegial relationships,” she says. “They are an essential component of maintaining job satisfaction, and they need to be recognized.”


Canady, M. and Hamner, S. “Preceptors for non-clinical employees: Extending the value.” Nursing Economic$ 26 (1): 53–57.

Cox, C., et al. “Time to truly acknowledge what nursing preceptors do for students.” Journal for Nurses in Staff Development 24 (3): 113–116.


The Staff Educator, August 2008, HCPro, Inc.