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Nursing Student Know-How: Finding a Preceptor for Your Practicum

Get started by learning your nursing school’s requirements before launching the search for your practicum placement.

The nursing practicum is an exciting stage in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. This is when you’ll work under a nurse preceptor’s supervision to apply in real-life settings what you’ve learned in your MSN degree coursework. Preceptors are master’s- or doctorate-prepared and licensed and credentialed in their state to practice in their area of specialization.

While the number of practicum placements, hours, and settings may vary depending on a nursing school’s requirements, MSN candidates seeking preceptors share a common goal: to find the best possible match for the richest professional experience.

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As with most things, planning is the key to finding the right preceptor for your nursing practicum. Boost your nursing know-how by learning more about finding a preceptor in nursing:

Get an Early Start

Preparation can lay the groundwork for a rewarding nursing practicum. A good first step is to talk to the practicum coordinators for your MSN degree program to learn about your nursing school’s requirements. Walden University, which is No. 1 in Master of Science in Nursing graduates in the U.S., does not place students into clinical sites but has coordinators available to assist MSN candidates in meeting practicum requirements.

Once you’re familiar with the requirements and process, create a timeline so you can chart your progress and stay on course. Some MSN degree-seekers find it useful to create a spreadsheet to record contacts made, responses received, actions to be taken, and so on.

Find a Preceptor in Nursing

Nurse educators stress the importance of starting your search early. You’ll want to build in enough time to account for all the moving pieces—schedules, logistics, and more. This will help minimize the risk of having to make a last-minute decision. When you’re ready to survey your options, here are some of the resources MSN candidates use in their search for a preceptor in nursing:

Online Nursing School
In some master’s in nursing programs, field education coordinators may be available to suggest possible clinical sites for practicum placements. These are often locations where other MSN students have worked with preceptors to earn their practicum hours.

Nursing Career Network
The professional contacts you’ve made in your nursing career so far may yield a wealth of nursing preceptor leads. And your nursing school connections can widen the scope. Talk to faculty members and other students in your master’s in nursing online degree program. If you’ve joined Sigma Theta Tau, the international nursing honor society, you might confer with other members of that network. Alumni are also a great source of ideas, and some of them may also serve as preceptors.

Dr. Alvin Mena Cantero, who earned Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees online from Walden, says the connections he made through the school’s alumni group helped him find a clinical preceptor. Now Dr. Cantero, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Alvin Clinica Familiar in Houston, offers preceptorship services to nurse practitioner and physician assistant students.

Professional Associations
You may also find a nursing preceptor for your practicum placement through one of the many professional nursing organizations. These nursing networks include the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing, which lists preceptor opportunities in multiple states. There are also sources like ENP Network, which offers a directory of nurse practitioner preceptors.

Walden University Practicum Pledge

Walden University understands that finding a site or preceptor can be challenging and we are dedicated to supporting you at every step of the way to ensure a timely and successful placement. Walden University Practicum Pledge creates a collaborative search process between our MSN NP and DNP NP students and our large network of field sites and preceptors. If after several tries you’re unable to identify your own site and preceptor, we pledge to help match you with a preceptor and site. We’ve added a dedicated Field Placement Team to explain the process and requirements and proactively partner with you to offer site and preceptor matching. The Walden University Practicum Pledge gives our students added confidence as they embark on their NP journey.

Advance Your Nursing Career

If you’d like to earn a nursing degree, Walden’s online nursing programs can help you achieve your education and career goals.

Walden’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program lets you tailor your studies to your career interests. If you want to provide direct patient care, there are five nurse practitioner specializations that prepare you to pursue certification and credentialing. If your career path is in leadership or education, you can focus your MSN degree in indirect patient care specializations that include Nursing Informatics and Public Health Nursing.

You’ll work toward your practicum placement by using innovative technology like the interactive i-Human patient simulation software and engaging in timely coursework. All of the faculty members in Walden’s master’s in nursing online degree program have doctoral degrees and a depth of real-world experience. And as a leader in remote education for more than 50 years, Walden understands that working professionals need flexibility to achieve their educational goals. Walden’s MSN degree program lets you earn a degree while staying active in your nursing career and personal life.

Working with a preceptor while you earn a master’s degree in nursing will help broaden your experience and prepare you for your life’s work: improving the quality of healthcare through direct patient care or in a leadership or educator role.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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