November 2019
You Asked Us

Do I have to support learners?

I’m a senior nurse in my practice setting, and I’ve been asked to be a preceptor to new nurses. Am I required to take on this role? What are my accountabilities?

Yes, you should take on the role, because you have an accountability to support learners and colleagues who are developing and refining the competencies needed for safe, ethical and effective practice. Supporting learners is one way nurses prioritize patient safety and well-being.

Remember that “learners” are not limited to nursing students. A learner is a person studying nursing at the diploma, baccalaureate, graduate or doctorate level, a newly registered nurse, an experienced nurse entering a new practice setting or health discipline, or a nurse new to Ontario practice.

Regardless of role or title, nurses are accountable to provide direction, collaborate and share knowledge and expertise. Principle 4.4 of the Code of Conduct says that nurses support, mentor and teach members of the health care team, including students. It also says that nurses work together to promote patient well-being (principle 2).

Why is it my accountability to support learners?

When nurses support learners, everyone benefits.

  • Patients benefit because the nurses providing their care are sharing knowledge and working collaboratively, which improves patient outcomes. Future patients will also benefit from the knowledge and skill learners acquire.

  • Nurses benefit from working in a learning environment that encourages professional growth, career development and high-quality patient care.

  • The nurse who supports a learner is better able to provide quality patient care when their colleagues increase their knowledge and skills. The entire health care team becomes more effective. Supporting learners is also a great way to reflect on your nursing practice and identify your own knowledge or skill gaps.

When supporting learners, you must ensure you have the knowledge, skill and judgment to orient, supervise or support learners safely and competently.

Our Ask Practice team has provided questions for reflection that can help you effectively guide learners. They’re available on the Ask Practice section of our website.
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