A pilot project is trying to create more resources for rural nurses so they can help the next generation of nurses, and possibly inspire them to take up nursing in a rural setting.
The project is trying to improve recruitment and retention of rural nurses as clinical instructors and preceptors. In their role as clinical instructors, experienced nurses teach student nurses. In their role as preceptors, the senior nurses work one-on-one with student nurses during their preceptorship — a bit like a practicum, where student nurses get to practice the skills they’ve learned in the classroom over an extended period.
“There are people who volunteer to be preceptors, but there has never been a formal program they can take in order to take on this role,” said Nancy Walker, content expert for the project and a registered nurse on the faculty at Red Deer College. “What we’re trying to do is create a program that gives them all the information they need. This is to have a standardized program over the region so everybody knows what the expectations are and what they should be doing.”
The three-year project — known as the Rural Instructor Preceptor Project — is being done in partnership with Red Deer College and Central Zone – Alberta Health Services. The pilot has received $880,000 in funding from Alberta Health and Wellness and in its development stage it’s taking place in Rocky Mountain House and Drumheller Health Care Centres.
Sandra Jardine, human resources director for Learning and Wellness, with Central Zone – Alberta Health Services, said the project is mutually beneficial to both RDC and Alberta Health Services. She said the college uses Alberta Health Services nurses as preceptors and clinical instructors, but the health system depends on RDC graduates to work at providing health care in the future.
Jardine said many nurses are afraid to go into rural sites because they need to know a lot about everything. “By having someone there who can work with them closely through the preceptorship and still be there as they go as a new qualified nurse, I think people will feel much more comfortable,” she said.
Jean Smith is a registered nurse who has worked at rural hospitals for 20 years and has been with the college since October.
“From our standpoint, if we can get somebody in a rural area to be a clinical instructor or preceptor, it enriches their job and our chances of retaining them in that community is greater,” Jardine said.