Nurses as preceptors to reduce nurse burnout Essay

            The physical and emotional demands attendant to the nursing profession has lead to increasing rates of nurse burnout in many hospitals and clinics across the country (Riddle 2003).   As nurse workloads increase, nurse burnout and job dissatisfaction become greater factors in the voluntary turnover of nurses which in turns results to understaffing of clinics and hospitals  (Vahey et al 2004).   The loss of nurses is a major threat to patient care and safety as hospitals and clinics have to constantly combat understaffing problems.   According to the American Hospital Association, there are over 125,000 Registered Nurse positions currently unfilled in various hospitals and clinics across the U.S.  Over the next eight years, the AHA estimates that the demand for nurses will increase by at least 25% while nursing student admissions have steadily decline (Riddle 2003).

            These nurse burnouts have been attributed to the following factors:  low staffing levels in hospitals and clinics, excessive over-time demands, leaderships’ inability to successfully address problems, nurses’ perceptions of the quality of patient care, and support from co-workers and supervisors (Riddle 2003).  Lack of technology and patient interaction have also been cited as factors that lead to nurse burnout (Mee 2002).

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            Nurse burnout tends to creep up on a nurse.  Some signs are unusual fatigue, insomnia, and general unhappiness with one’s practice.   Nurses are advised to recognize how hard they work, how much they do, and how they stressed they are.  They should also consider their nursing colleagues, particularly those who have been working for 2 or 3 years.  Nurses work so hard in developing their nursing skills that they tend to ignore or not recognize the extreme pressure under which they work (Mee 2002).  One way of combating this stress that leads to nurse burnout is by involving the nurses in the role of precepting in order to diminish and eventually eliminate nurse burnout in their respective environments.

            As preceptor, experienced nurses can share their knowledge and skills and help to guide new nurses, or preceptees, while performing their usual duties.  Preceptors take on the role of teacher, instructor, educator, tutor, trainer, coach, mentor and boss to new nurses.  As preceptors, experienced nurses should gain the trust and confidence of new nurses so that the latter will not hesitate in approaching their preceptors in case of problems and concerns which may eventually snowball into nurse burnout.  As preceptors, experienced nurses should: embody confidence, capability and enthusiasm in their profession; possess excellence in leadership and mentorship abilities; display patience, empathy and tact; communicate well with co-workers, staff and patients; and set realistic expectations and goals for themselves, co-worked and preceptees (SIAST 2006).  From the onset, the preceptor should acquaint the preceptee with the clinical setting and help provide appropriate orientation on the hospital or clinic.  The preceptor and preceptee should then meet regularly to evaluate learning experiences (Sonoma State University 2003).  Preceptors should encourage nurses to team up and provide support to each other, even if it is something as simply as allowing each other to let off steam in order to relieve stress.  Open communication is encouraged among nurses.  According to a review of related literature, nurses working in units which they perceive as “good environments” were less likely to suffer emotional exhaustion or above-average depersonalization, which are elements of nurse burnouts (Vahey et al 2004).    Organizations should provide options for nurses to change work settings or schedules when they feel that they are nearing burnout.   Hospitals themselves should allow nurses to move or rotate within their facility and should provide for programs to help nurses deal with the stress (Mee 2002).   By helping nurses to deal with pressure from the job, preceptors and hospitals reduce the possibility of nurse burnout.  There is also an increase in patient care, safety and satisfaction when nurses themselves are satisfied with their jobs.


Mee, Cheryl L.   Battling burnout.  Nursing.  August 2002.  31 July 2006.

Preceptor’s Role.  SIAST.  2006.  Nursing Division.  31 July 2006.

Preceptor Role.  Sonoma State University.  20 January 2003.  31 July 2006.

Riddle, Chris.  Measuring Nursing Burnout and Nursing Retention – New Survey Announced by Data Management & Research, Inc.  Data Management & Research, Inc.  9 January 2003.  31 July 2006.

Vahey, DC, L.H Aiken, D.M. Sloan, S.P. Clarke, and D. Vargas. Nurse Burnout and Patient Satisfaction.  Medical Care 42 (2): II-57-II-66.  February 2004. 31 July 2006.