On our cover this month, nursing student Micah McCanna is being instructed by his preceptor, Paul Couch, RN, as they care for a patient in the cardiovascular ICU (CICU) at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As part of his accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program, McCanna also held a per diem position as a certified nursing assistant in the hospital's cardiothoracic ICU. Both experiences contributed to his desire to work in critical care, and after graduation he took a job providing postoperative care for patients in the CICU at another North Carolina hospital.
McCanna's story is an example of how working with a preceptor can help to smooth the transition from an academic to a clinical setting. New nurses face many challenges during this transition and can become overwhelmed without proper support. Although the nursing shortage in the United States has made recruiting and retaining newly licensed RNs a priority for many hospitals, there is a relatively high turnover rate for nurses in their first year. High turnover and reduced staffing have been linked to increased rates of hospital-related mortality, hospital-associated falls and pressure ulcers, and readmissions.
Hospital orientation programs, with their use of preceptors and mentors, are one way to ease a nurse's transition from student to professional nurse. Preceptor programs can increase new nurses’ job satisfaction, help them gain skills and knowledge, give them greater confidence in their abilities, and increase retention rates. To read what new nurses have to say about the importance of nurse preceptors, see this month's original research article, “Hearing the Voices of Newly Licensed RNs: The Transition to Practice.”—Michael Fergenson, senior editorial coordinator