The Effects of Clinical Instructors on Nursing Students

The effects of nurse instructors – or preceptors, as they are called in the nursing field — on nursing students in clinical settings can range from helpful to detrimental. Depending on the preceptor, the student may come away from the clinical teaching experience either confident or uncertain about herself as a nurse and her skills and may view nursing as either a positive or negative experience. Effective characteristics of clinical instructors in nursing are applicable to other health areas, such as physical therapy, radiography, and speech pathology.
Confidence
• Most students who are beginning clinical instruction are anxious. They are afraid they won’t perform procedures on their patients adequately and that they will make mistakes that might cause patient suffering. An effective instructor will develop a relationship with the student that is reassuring, nurturing and confidence-building. He will praise good work and create an atmosphere in which the student is allowed to make mistakes, learn from them and develop initiative.

Role Model
•The effective clinical instructor is a role model for the clinical student. She performs patient care with the student, observing or participating in accordance with established standards. The instructor exhibits leadership skills by delegating tasks, setting priorities and making decisions. The student, observing this role model, will identify with the instructor and work to imitate the skills exhibited.
Relationship
•The relationship the instructor develops with the student is critical for effective instruction. The instructor should be available to the student for questions and advice by providing a phone number for the student with questions, concerns or anxieties. The instructor should develop, with the student’s input, regularly scheduled conferences to provide feedback on the student’s progress, discuss student objectives and consider how they are being met. The instructor also should praise the student’s good work and point out problems. Negativity
•An instructor that is negative about nursing, the clinical environment and other staff members may harm the student’s perception of nursing and its environment. When the instructor complains about hospital practices, the nursing profession or the clinical environment, he is encouraging the student to develop a negative attitude toward the field. As a role model, that is just what the instructor should not do.

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