How to choose a preceptor: aspects to consider based on a grounded theory study

Guida Amaral*, Amélia Simões Figueiredo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Nurses in clinical practice settings share responsibility with academy teachers in the education of nursing students in clinical teaching. This dynamic is essential for the students’ learning and their skill development. During preceptorship, the nurse has to mobilize the available resources to act competently and effectively. The purpose of this article is to identify the aspects that should be considered when selecting a nurse preceptor. Methods: A qualitative study was carried out based on Grounded Theory using Strauss and Corbin’s version. The study took place in a medicine ward and a surgery ward of a hospital in the Lisbon metropolitan area. The authors conducted fourteen semi-structured interviews with nurses who were at different stages of Benner’s Professional Development Model and with different outlooks on nursing preceptorship. The initial script was reorganized after the pilot test. It was also adjusted after the first exploratory interviews and after the in-depth interviews in order to reflect the interviewees’ work experience and outlooks on preceptorship. The interviews had an average duration of 45 min and were audio recorded. Theoretical sampling was conducted considering the needs identified in data coding until we reached theoretical saturation. Data analysis began after the first interview, first by open coding, followed by axial and selective coding, always in a logic of constant comparison with theory. Ethical principles, scientific integrity and methodological rigour were ensured throughout the study. Results: Two categories emerged that were supported by all nurses: skills and individual characteristics. The former includes communication skills, relational skills, reflective skills, technical-scientific skills, and emotional skills, while the latter includes perceptiveness, responsibility, motivation, and professional initiative. Conclusion: Nurses value both the individual characteristics they possess and the skills they have developed throughout their career. The recognition of the aspects found in this study for the selection of nurse preceptors allows for an informed and reasoned decision making, with a view to the success of the preceptorship and to the improvement of the quality of nursing education.

Original languageEnglish
Article number90
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023


  • Grounded theory
  • Nursing education
  • Nursing research
  • Preceptorship
  • Professional competence


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