It is critical to students’ successful practicum experiences that they thoroughly and completely review the Walden University College of Nursing Practicum Manual, designated for their program and specialty area, in their first term and throughout their program. Walden provides guidelines for identifying an appropriate preceptor and practicum site, and the manuals outline the practicum application submittal resources necessary to begin the practicum process.
Preparing early is critical to practicum success. It is highly recommended that students work with the Office of Field Experience to start the search process for a field site and preceptor early in the program, as it can take a significant amount of time to identify a preceptor and field site and complete the application process.
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. (2018). Standards for accreditation of baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs: Key element II-B standard. CCNE.
Students should read this manual and refer to the practicum application resources on the Office of Field Experience website to begin the practicum process. Walden provides guidelines for how to identify preceptors and practicum sites. Because Walden students are located around the world, they have the flexibility to identify sites based on their region/location. To begin the process, students identify a practicum site and initiate contact with a potential preceptor who meets the qualifications and may be interested in working with them.
Students are encouraged to start the search to identify field sites and possible preceptors at least two quarters before the beginning of their clinical courses, as it takes time for Walden to negotiate Affiliation Agreements with sites and to review qualifications of potential preceptors. Students should notify the Office of Field Experience of their identified preceptor nominees and practicum sites early in their program. Students are also strongly encouraged to identify alternative practicum sites and preceptor nominees as back-ups and submit application prior to application deadline, to increase their opportunity for placement during the students’ desired term and to avoid academic delay. A completed application must be submitted via Meditrek® by the practicum application deadline date.
Note: Students must submit their applications in Meditrek® for the applications to be reviewed and processed. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed and may delay practicum placement and academic progress.
Identifying a practicum site and preceptor can be as intensive as a job search. The following tips are recommended for students when they are beginning the search process. Students should:
“Identifying” a practicum site and a preceptor means that the student has received confirmation from a site and preceptor that the site is willing to host the practicum and the preceptor is willing to supervise the student in the practicum experience during a specific term.
Student considerations when identifying a practicum site:
Students may complete the practicum where they work (e.g., hospital, nursing home, health organization, clinic, health department, or other health-related organization); however, the experience must be:
Note: Students’ employment at their nominated field site does not guarantee that an Affiliation Agreement can be reached between Walden University and the site. Regardless of employment status, an Affiliation agreement and onboarding are required for all field sites. Students who wish to conduct their practicum at their place of employment should be aware that that loss of employment during their practicum may interfere with their ability to complete their required practicum hours.
The practicum cannot be completed in a college of nursing or other nursing education setting (except in an education department in a hospital), or in a private care or private home setting.
Students must identify a potential preceptor and determine if the individual is interested in working with them. If so, students must find out whether this individual meets the qualifications to serve as preceptor and if the preceptor is available for the desired term. Students should contact the nursing field experience coordinators as soon as they identify a possible preceptor, and no later than the start of their second term, to determine if the preceptor and site meet the requirements. Students should evaluate potential preceptors early by emailing email@example.com to obtain feedback about whether the nominee is an acceptable preceptor.
Walden discourages students from paying preceptors, practicum sites, or site placement agencies, due to conflicts of interest that can arise.
The preceptor must be involved in healthcare or have experience and expertise in the practice setting relevant to the student’s area of interest. Additionally, the preceptor must currently work in a role consistent with the students’ goals for the practicum experience. Doctoral education is preferred; however, some other form of graduate education may be acceptable if the preceptor’s experience and responsibility are clearly related to the student’s practicum goals (e.g., a senior administrator for a student interested in leadership and management).
Note: It is not always necessary that the preceptor be a professional nurse or have the DNP or PhD credential. When the DNP student’s areas of expertise a more interdisciplinary focus, the preceptor may, for example, be an industry leader, a policymaker, a physician, or an informatics specialist. However, the preceptor must still hold a graduate degree.
The preceptor should not be providing direct patient care. The student may work with a clinician as a preceptor, but solely when the student’s experience and the preceptor’s supervision will be focused on organizational change. Examples include focusing on system issues; organizational or healthcare delivery changes; technology in healthcare; workflow and process improvement in the healthcare setting; etc.
Prior to approval, the nominated preceptor’s licensure and certification (if applicable) are verified and reviewed by the Office of Field Experience. The program director gives final approval of preceptor nominees. Approval of the preceptor is based on the following criteria:
There may be situations when a practicing nurse with appropriate credentials and/or expertise in the student’s identified area is not available. If that situation occurs, then another health-related non-nurse individual with expertise and credentials that align with the area of student goals and objectives and practicum course Learning Outcomes could serve in the preceptor role if the individual has a graduate degree.
Please be aware of the following Washington Administrative Code—WAC 246-840-533(6)—requirement, which states that a preceptor in graduate nursing programs must be experienced in the specialty area for at least 2 years; and not be related to, or a personal friend of, the student.
The student may have the same preceptor for each practicum course, but this is not required.
Note: Approval of the preceptor must occur prior to the student starting any practicum course and logging hours. Students cannot begin logging practicum hours until their practicum application is fully approved, they have been registered for the course, and the course/term has started.
Students enrolled in the Executive Leadership practicums, NURS 8504 and NURS 8505, should find preceptors that have system-wide administrative responsibilities which may be responsibilities such as chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), chief information officer (CIO), vice president for nursing, vice president for healthcare systems, etc. Students should identify the person or persons who can assist them in collaborating with executives and leaders across various healthcare disciplines who have responsibilities for guiding change in the healthcare systems. Students in the Executive Leadership track practicums should not select preceptors with only unit responsibilities, such as a nurse manager. Questions about appropriate preceptors or sites for the executive leadership practicum should be directed to the DNP program coordinator.
If it is found that a student’s preceptor is a supervisor, direct report, relative, family member, fiancé, roommate, significant other, personal friend, or primary care provider, the practicum hours will be rejected and not counted toward the 1000-hour practicum requirement. If a student utilizes a preceptor inappropriately, as noted above, this may lead to an academic integrity violation up to and including dismissal from the university. Students are responsible for nominating preceptors that fully meet all requirements for preceptors.
Because circumstances change, sometimes students need to change preceptors before or during their practicum course. This is known as a replacement application. If the new preceptor nominee requires transfer to a new practicum site, then a new Affiliation Agreement will also be needed. Depending on the timing before the term begins, there may not be enough time to process an application, Affiliation Agreement, and onboarding, which may delay the practicum experience until a later term. Students must receive practicum application approval in Meditrek® for any change of preceptor prior to logging practicum hours.
Note: If a student’s preceptor becomes unavailable for any reason before or during the practicum, the student is required to notify the Office of Field Experience.
If students need to change their preceptor before the practicum course begins:
Note: Practicum hours completed under a preceptor other than the preceptor who was identified in a practicum application submitted by the student will be rejected and students will be required to repeat the hours. Failure to notify the Office of Field Experience and assigned Faculty, as stated above, will result in a Code of Conduct inquiry and may result in disciplinary action, including course failure and permanent dismissal from the university. For more information about the Code of Conduct, please refer to the Walden University Student Handbook, Code of Conduct.
Students may need additional preceptors in order to meet all of the requirements for the course, including logging all the required hours and/or patients. If students need to precept with multiple preceptors to meet the course requirements, then they have an option to nominate another person as their supplemental preceptor, provided the supplemental preceptor nominee fulfills the requirements. When students complete their practicum application, they must provide a fully completed application for both their preceptor nominee and their supplemental preceptor nominee. Applications for supplemental preceptor nominees should be submitted as early as possible. However, applications are accepted during the quarter if students need a supplemental preceptor during the quarter to meet the required practicum hours. Applications for supplemental preceptors go through the same review process as other applications.
Example reasons for supplemental preceptors: