Supporting nurse preceptors through online continuing education

The article is of a pilot study titled ‘Supporting nurse preceptors through online continuing education’. The study is qualitative since its primary focal point is to assess the knowledge and self-efficacy of the respondents, and the results are descriptive. Dr. Zahner, an Associate Professor, did the study. The researcher, being a faculty member at the University hosting the research study; she has an obligation to improve nursing education. The title is appropriate because nurse preceptors are significant persons in ensuring that nursing education is successful. Adequate support given to the nurse preceptors will boost the quality of nursing education in the clinical areas. Instead of stating ‘supporting nurse preceptors through online continuing education,’ it should be titled ‘Improving nurse instructor role through online continuous education.’

In the abstract, the purpose of the research is to assess the practicability of using an online course to improve knowledge and self-efficacy of clinical instructors who work with student nurses in acute and primary care settings. The researcher has listed neither the hypothesis nor the research questions. The research design used is a one-group test done before and after the online assessment, an observational method of study. The findings indicate that thirteen individuals who participated in the study reported satisfaction with the course. The knowledge of respondents improved as the researcher changed from one test to another. Experience decreased from the online course to follow-up. The alteration was zero in self-efficacy ratings. According to the results, online learning is a viable plan to support learning among clinical student instructors.


In the introduction, the primary objective of the study and the roles of clinical instructors are evidently articulated. The introduction points out other studies related to the current study. The preceptors and the faculty members co-work in supervising and instructing nursing students in the hospitals. The experience and training the students receive from mentors prepare them to become qualified professionals (Haas, Deardorff & Klotz, 2002). The methods used previously to support preceptor role includes organizing workshop and giving out written resource materials. The significance of the study to nursing is to support the instructor role so as to facilitate success in the nursing education by use of the mentor model (Zahner, 2006).

The purpose of the research was to determine the likelihood that online courses will improve the knowledge and self-efficacy of preceptors. The research has not stated the hypotheses. Specific research questions and accurately defined hypotheses are necessary for the research study as they determine the study design, the study population and the type of data to collect (Brian Haynes, 2006).

The literature review has considered seventeen articles that are in line with the topic under study. The resources are adequate as they have presented varied views on the subject under study that helps to reach a valid conclusion. The references are not current since none is within the last five years. Three of the references cited in the literature review are within the previous ten years while fourteen references are works done more than ten years ago. On the other hand, the literature review is not as detailed as it should be. The literature review should have an in-depth explanation of the views of other researchers on the topic relating to the study.

The researcher has not mentioned any ethical protocol used when conducting the study. The researcher has not indicated whether they sought ethical clearance from the ethics review committee. The researcher invited the participants to participate in the study via email. The study has not outlined how the members were supposed to seek clarification and sign the informed consent. It is unethical to collect data from respondents without allowing them to sign the informed consent form and allowing voluntary participation

The research study does not have a theoretical framework. As the researcher reviews the literature, they should present a clear conceptual framework as a guide to aIDress the problem under study (Bassett and Bassett, 2003). According to Conkin Dale (2005), a research study should have a hypothetical framework or a conceptual framework to guide the study.

Operational definitions are measurements that define key constructs under study. The key variables of interest in the study that needed to be operationally defined are the knowledge, self-efficacy, and satisfaction. Unfortunately, the study has not included any operational definitions. Operational definitions need to be appropriate so as to clarify the subject that the researcher is studying.

The research is a qualitative, descriptive study. The study describes the effect of online continuous teaching on the variables. The researcher identified the various instructors who are known to work with students and invited them to participate in the study. There was no randomization in assigning participants. All the preceptors who accepted to take part in the study became respondents. The selection criterion was biased since only the individuals that the researcher knew and identified could take part in the study. The researcher could have opted to use random sampling so as to involve other mentors who they did not know but could provide reliable and valid information. The study also has gender bias since all the participants were female preceptors. The researcher should have balanced the gender by including male instructors in the study. The participants were having considerable skill preceptors. The researcher should have included teachers who are young in the field and are eager to learn and gain experience so as to have a wider view and make reliable conclusions. The researcher has conflict of interest since their principal aim is to improve the preceptors in their nursing school and, therefore, is more biased towards the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Nursing.

The subjects for the study comprise the instructors working with students. The researcher sent invitation to ninety preceptors, but only 38 (42%) agreed to take part in the study. Thirty eight mentors participated. The figure is inadequate since it is lower than 75% of the mentors invited. Therefore, the validity of the research is questionable.

Data was collected by the participants completing an electronic pre-course survey. The survey had a shortened version (13 items) having an assessment of the preceptor self-efficacy. The tool was created by Parsons and used with permission (Parsons, 2007). Parsons’ self-efficacy instrument assessed confidence in preceptor skills using a four-point scale (1 = completely lacking in confidence; 2 = somewhat lacking in confidence; 3 = somewhat confident; 4 = very confident). The preceptors were then allowed to access the online course where they completed an online, four-item quiz at the end of each module. The responses to these questions became the post-course assessment of knowledge gain. Follow up was done about half a year later after completion of the last evaluation. Six months is quite a long period as many of the participants could have forgotten about the study and its findings. The participants completed the pre- and post-course evaluation in their different set ups of work. There are many factors such as interference that could have affected the responses. The researcher should have provided a conducive environment whereby the participants could meet in a common place and have reasonable time frame to take part in the study.

The study does not indicate the method of data analysis, but it has recorded the results of the analysis. According to Craparo, Robert M. (2007), most studies have the significance level set at 0.05 (5%). Knowledge gain between the pretest and the course posttest was statistically significant (t(12) = 3.76, p < .003), as was knowledge gain between the pretest and follow-up (t(12) = 2.79, p < .016). The subsequent decline in education level seen between the course posttest and the follow-up approached statistical significance (t(12) = -2.07, p = .06). The 13-item self-efficacy scale showed good reliability (Cronbach’s alpha = .938). However, no statistically significant changes in self-efficacy were observed between the pretest (time 1) and follow-up (time 3) (t(12) = 0.21, p > .837). From the results, the instructors experience improvement in their preceptor role when they use the online continuous education. The sample size is too small to make a reliable conclusion on the study. The study is significant since it is through continuous learning that the occupation grows.

The researcher suggests that further study can be conducted to improve the current online continuous education. Further research should improve the relevance of online education for nurse preceptors working with certified nurses in registered nurse-to-bachelor of science in nursing programs, nurse residency programs, and new staff orientation. The suggestion is appropriate because it is not only the students who need a nurse preceptor, but also other members of the profession.

The study concludes that nursing education is a collaborative process that includes nurses in training and practice. Schools of nursing that use the preceptor model must continue to develop mechanisms to support practicing nurses in the instructor role to assure high-quality nursing education.


Bassett, C. & Bissett, J. (2003). Reading and critiquing research. British Journal of Perioperative Nursing, 13(4): 162-4

Brian-Haynes, R. (2006). Forming research questions. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 59: 881–6.

Conkin-Dale, J. (2005) Critiquing research for use in practice. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19: 183-6

Craparo, Robert M. (2007). “Significance level.” Encyclopedia of Measurement and Statistics,  889–891.

Haas, B. K., Deardorff, K. U., & Klotz, L. (2002). Creating a collaborative partnership between academia and service. Journal of Nursing Education, 41(12), 518-523.

Parsons, R. (2007). Improving preceptor self-efficacy using an online educational program. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 4(21).

Zahner, S. J. (2006). Partnerships for learning population-based public health nursing: Web-delivered continuing education for public health nurse preceptors. Public Health Nursing, 23(6), 547-554.



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