Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Marian W. Roman

Committee Members

Ralph G. Brockett, Mary E. Gunther, Kenneth D. Phillips


Staff nurses are increasingly called upon to accept more responsibilities and roles in addition to provider of patient care, including that of preceptor. Aside from dealing with demands of high acuity patients, working long hours with inadequate staffing, and carrying heavy workloads, nurses may view teaching and supervising students as an additional burden, time-consuming, and not part of their role. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore staff nurse experiences as preceptors to undergraduate, pre-licensure nursing students. Emphasis was placed on exploring RN’s perceptions of the role, specifically the preparation for, support in, and understanding of what the role entails. The following question was used to guide the study: What are staff nurses’ experiences with precepting undergraduate, pre-licensure nursing students? A naturalistic inquiry within an interpretive paradigm guided this qualitative exploratory study. The sample consisted of nine licensed registered staff nurses with experience as preceptors in tertiary care settings in Northeast Tennessee. Most participants were currently working in or had worked in the role of preceptor for undergraduate nursing students within the past six months. All nine participants were female. Most participants were between the ages of 30-39. Participants were licensed as registered nurses anywhere from 2 to 14 years. Participants attended one of two focus groups lasting between 60-90 minutes each. A semi-structured interview guide assisted in data collection. Transcripts were analyzed using conventional content analysis. Findings suggest that while preceptors perceive information about teaching and learning styles to be beneficial, they did not perceive a formal class essential to preparing them for the preceptor role. Preceptors perceived most support from their co-workers and least support from nurse managers. Faculty seemed to be silent partners. The primary role function is Protector, with Socializer and Teacher as secondary role functions. Preceptors have a strong empathetic drive to protect students from negative experiences, to protect patients from harm, to protect their own professional identities, and to protect the nature of the nursing profession itself. Preceptors perceived students with overconfident attitudes as unsafe. Findings have significant implications for development of professional values in practice and education.

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