Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Education in Ontario is delivered by a consortium of nine universities under COUPN (Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing). For details contact one of the consortium universities directly.

Our Courses

  • Pathophysiology
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Advanced Assessment and Diagnosis I
  • Advanced Assessment and Diagnosis II
  • Therapeutics I
  • Therapeutics II
  • Integrative Practicum

Examples of places where NPs work

  • Community Health Centres
  • Long Term Care
  • Palliative Care
  • Aboriginal Centres
  • Community-based facilities
  • Ambulatory Care Centres
  • Family Health Teams

Interested in Preceptorship?

The clinical experience for nurse practitioner (NP) learners is an essential component of their education. It is through the experience of working with an expert, that learners are able to develop their ability to apply the theoretical to real life situations.  Preceptors serve as role models who assist learners in evidence-based practice and role development as advanced nurse practitioners. The information on the following points provided below will hopefully help you decide on or plan for a preceptorship program in your agency.

For further information on preceptorship and placement negotiations, go to “Clinical Placement Coordinators” on the right hand side menu.


Why Become a Clinical Site?

  1. Research Partnerships: Opportunity to form research partnerships with faculty and community members.
  2. Easy Access to Preceptor Resource Material: A collection of online teaching strategies for nurse practitioner education.
  3. Networking: Opportunities to network, collaborate and share experiences with preceptors, faculty and researchers.
  4. Sharing: Sharing knowledge and experience with the next generation
  5. Library: A collection of online educational resources, journals, articles and reports.

Point #1: A preceptor is a health professional who participates in the education of learners.

Point #2: Some authors believe that mentorship differs from preceptorship in that mentorship is longer term which allows for a personal relationship to develop between peers.

Point #3: Preceptors play an important role in developing the learner’s practice and sense of professionalism.

Point #4: Certain characteristics have been associated with effective preceptors.

Point #5: Organizational planning is required for successful preceptorship programs.

Point #6: Employers and preceptors can indicate to the university what types of learners they would like to host based on certain criteria such as learner skill level and previous experience.

Point #7: Preceptorship programs can bring personal and job satisfaction to staff and health care professionals in the agency.

Point #1:  A preceptor is a health professional who participates in the education of learners.
COUPN Definition
The preceptor is a health professional with ongoing responsibility for client care who can assist the learner in developing knowledge and skill because of his/her clinical expertise and proximity to clients.
Others’  Perspectives
  • A clinically based professional who agrees to work with learners in an effort to provide them with opportunities to reinforce their knowledge with clinical experience.
  • An individual who teaches, socializes, provides opportunities, sponsors, coaches, guides, protects, advises, counsels, encourages, inspires, challenges, role models, supports and befriends a learner.
  • A health professional who engages in face-to-face, short-term relationships with learners by sharing knowledge and skills.
  • A role model who helps to socialize learners into new advanced practice roles. (1-5)
Point #2:  Some authors believe that mentorship differs from preceptorship in that mentorship is longer term which allows for a personal relationship to develop between peers

Definition of a Mentor

  • An individual who advocates and fosters personal growth of a young practitioner, while serving as a protector, supporter, teacher, counselor, friend, advisor, professional role model friend and resource person. (6-10)
Point #3:  Preceptors play an important role in developing the learner’s practice and sense of professionalism.

Preceptor’s Role in the COUPN Program

  • Provides the learner with an orientation to the clinical setting.
  • Helps the learner to formulate his/her learning plan in relation to the learning opportunities available in the clinical setting.
  • Facilitates the learner’s acquisition of knowledge and clinical skills related to his/her personal objectives and the objectives for the field work experience.
  • Provides constructive feedback to the learner about his/her performance in the clinical setting.
  • Encourages and facilitates the learner’s exposure to other clinical experiences and personnel as resources for his/her learning.
  • Discusses with the clinical tutor any difficulties/concerns with respect to the learner’s clinical performance.
  • Provides written comments about the learner’s clinical performance on the Clinical Evaluation Form which will be used to determine the learner’s final grade for the field work experience
In addition, a preceptor also…
  • Orientates and socializes the learner to the role.
  • Serves as a role model.
  • Facilitates theory application.
  • Engages learners in the guided experience of applying knowledge to practice.
  • Disseminates evidence-based research findings for use in practice.
  • Helps learners develop clinical competence, independence and autonomy.
  • Acts as a team member and collaborator.
  • Provides critical job knowledge and shares clinical experience.
  • Accelerates the professional growth of learners and promotes confidence and competence. (2,4,5, 11-24)
Point #4:  Certain characteristics have been associated with effective preceptors.

Characteristics of Effective Preceptors

  • Is recognized as a leader.
  • Is willing to work with a learner.
  • Supports inter-professional collaboration and education.
  • Acts as a positive role model, leader and change agent.
  • Acts as a resource, consultant and supervisor to a learner.
  • Has the ability to ensure educational preparation and role orientation for a learner.
  • Is able to be objective, independent, autonomous and perceptive.
  • Has good interpersonal skills and is empathetic, confident and secure. (2, 25-28)
Point #5:  Organizational planning is required for successful preceptorship programs.

What to Consider….

  • Provision of administrative support for coordinating NP education in the agency.
  • Negotiation with the university placement issues. (i.e. expectations on workplace health and safety; contracts; liability coverage; evaluation process for site, preceptor and learner recognition, incentives, contacts)
  • Assurance of agency policy and procedures specific to education and NP practice (i.e. privacy issues, legal coverage, confidentiality and IT forms; process for dealing with student error, regulation and standards of practice for Extended Class)
  • Determination of skill level and experience of preceptors in the agency and/or willingness of health care professionals to become preceptors.
  • Determination of team support for NP education and willingness to work with learners (i.e. staff, NPs, physicians, pharmacists, social workers, and physiotherapists).
  • Discussion of type of educational experiences and how they will meet the course expectations and role development in NP practice with the staff and health care team.
  • Discussion with the team concerning the level of expertise of learners to fit into the culture of the agency.
  • Discussion about strategies for scheduling patients for learners.
  • Assurance that there is flexibility in organizing preceptor’s schedule to accommodate time with learners. (For example, longer booking times with clients to allow time for teaching or provision of some time at the end of the day to review charts and patients with learners.)
  • Provision of adequate space for learners to practice (i.e. spare exam rooms, desk, chair, phone).
  • Provision of computer and internet access if possible.
  • Assurance of training for documentation of patient information.
  • Establishment of a strategy to connect learners into agency networks (i.e. email system, external partnerships).
  • Identification of a process to evaluate the preceptorship experience with administrator, preceptors, staff and other team members.
  • Establishment and maintenance of communication with university for the sustainability of programs.

For more information on types of educational experiences, refer to:

Point #6:  Employers and preceptors can indicate to the university what types of learners they would like to host based on certain criteria such as learner skill level and previous experience

Important Consideration for Matching Preceptor/Agency to Student

It is important for the preceptor/employer to meet with the student in a pre-orientation stage to discuss:

  • learner’s level of expertise, past experience and learning needs (What time do preceptors have to invest into the learner’s education? How quickly do the learners need to be up and running? What types of tasks do you want your learner to be able to perform independently?)
  • agency profile and types of clinical experiences (i.e. the personnel, skill mix of the team, patient population and typical clinical experiences, daily caseload, research interest of staff and agency)
  • reason why the learner chose the placement and how the experience will assist him/her in future career goals
  • fit between the expertise of preceptor and the learning needs of the learner
  • communication style of preceptor and learner
  • learning style of the learner and the types of teaching strategies used by the preceptor
Point #7:  Preceptorship programs can bring personal and job satisfaction to staff and health care professionals in the agency

Benefits of Being a Preceptor

  • Provides personal and job satisfaction.
  • Provides individuals with an opportunity to share knowledge and experience, teach, and assist in integrating new nurses into the NP role.
  • Provides an opportunity to influence practice.
  • Allows preceptors to work in a different dimension.
  • Provides opportunities for preceptors to increase personal knowledge through access to the current research literature. (29-32)
Benefits for the Learner
  • Provides support, socialization and orientation into a new environment for the learner.
  • Increases confidence and decreases stress levels.
  • Enhances ability to make decisions and problem solve.
  • Strengthens and develops clinical skills.
  • Generates a sense of trust and collegiality in the workplace and profession.
  • Teaches learners to be self-reflective practitioners by identifying their areas for growth.
  • Increases awareness of professional accountability. (13, 14, 33-37)

  1. The Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) Consortium. (2007). NP role/Preceptor Pkg/General.  Retrieved July 31, 2007 from 


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  32. Bizek, K., & Oermann, M. (1990). Study of educational experiences, support and job satisfaction among critical care nurse preceptors. Heart and Lung: The Journal of Critical Care, 19, 439-444.
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  38. Sullivan, E.P., & Decker, P.J. (2001). Effective leadership and management in nursing (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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