• clinical practice;
  • ethnography;
  • nurse education;
  • precepting

carlson e., pilhammar e. & wann-hansson c. (2010) Time to precept: supportive and limiting conditions for precepting nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(2), 432–441.


Title. Time to precept: supportive and limiting conditions for precepting nurses.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study describing conditions for precepting in a Swedish clinical context from the perspective of precepting nurses.

Background.  Clinical practice is a complex part of nursing education, and registered nurses who are acting as preceptors for nursing students face a number of challenges that need to be addressed during the precepting process.

Method.  An ethnographic approach guided by symbolic interactionism was used. Data were collected by participant observation and focus group interviews over a ten-month period in 2006–2007. Participants were selected by purposive sampling of 13 staff nurses who were preceptors during the field work period. In addition, 16 staff nurses, experienced in precepting, were purposively selected for four focus groups.

Findings.  Precepting was found to be a complex function for nurses, influenced by conditions that could be both supportive and limiting in nature. Three themes described these conditions: organization, comprising clinical responsibilities and routines; collaboration, focusing on professional relations and interactions; and the personal perspective, comprising preceptors’ experiences, need for feed back and notions of benefits. Time as a limiting condition reappeared through all categories.

Conclusion.  It is important to raise the issue of time and its impact on the precepting process. Precepting needs to be further discussed in terms of an integrated nursing competence prioritized by all stakeholders involved in clinical practice. Therefore; efforts should be made to plan nurses’ clinical work so that allocated time for precepting can be facilitated.