For physios who were trained overseas, are starting their first job after university, or are returning to practice, a preceptorship programme of support can improve confidence and increase retention rates. Find out about the provision of programmes around the country and meet some clinicians who have benefited from them.
On this page:
A structured programme of support can be hugely beneficial for individuals settling into a new role. This support can improve wellbeing, retention rates and ensure that clinicians are confident and competent to carry out their role. This period of support is often referred to as a preceptorship programme and is well established in the nursing profession.
Managers and leads report that some clinicians who were studying during the pandemic missed out on in-person placements, and so do not have enough experience and confidence to work as professionals straight from university. It is now more important than ever that clinicians are given the right support from the start.
Watch the recording of the 5 October webinar by the CSP, HCPC and NHS England Workforce Training and Education National AHP Preceptorship and Foundation Support Programme.
Passcode for webinar recording: 2@!2puIs
What is preceptorship?
The term preceptorship is defined as: 'a period of structured transition for the newly registered practitioner during which he or she will be supported by a preceptor, to develop their confidence as an autonomous professional, refine skills, values and behaviours and to continue on their journey of life-long learning.' Department of Health (2010)
- The preceptee is described as an individual who receives support and guidance.
- The preceptor is the individual who provides this support to the preceptee.
Preceptorship programmes for allied health professionals (AHPs) also allow for lifelong learning, CPD development, peer support and feeling valued, respected and invested in by employers.
Who is it for?
Recently, the HCPC described preceptorship as a period of structured support and development during periods of career transition, during which a preceptee is supported by a preceptor to develop their confidence as an autonomous and accountable professional.
So, preceptorship is not just suitable for newly qualified clinicians but also for individuals who are returning to practice, international recruits or those changing career direction entirely.
Preceptorship is not designed ‘to replace appraisals or be a substitute for a formal induction and mandatory training.’ (HCPC, 2022)
Currently, there is a lot of variation in preceptorship provision throughout the UK. Some employers have well established, long-standing programmes, whereas others do not provide any support, or it varies between different settings.
To address this, Health Education England, Capital AHP and NHS Education Scotland (2006) Flying Start have been working to standardise the quality of preceptorship programmes available to AHPs across the country. The HCPC has also developed a set of principles, and further plans are being developed to create more guidance around implementing these programmes.
The regulatory body's set of principles aims to support employers with providing consistently high-quality preceptorship programmes. Read the HCPC Principles.
Health Education England (HEE)
HEE has developed a National AHP Preceptorship and Foundation Support programme aimed at standardising the quality of preceptorship programmes and supporting clinicians prior to employment. You can sign up to updates and look at further details of its ongoing work on its website.
The NHS has also produced a short video explaining how preceptorship works.
As part of HEE, Capital AHP has developed a Preceptorship Framework. The 24-page publication includes templates and examples of documentation. It is aimed at allied healthcare professionals (AHP) in London, but it can be applicable throughout the UK.
Flying Start Scotland
This Flying Start programme was developed in 2006 to support newly qualified staff as they transition from students to working clinicians. The organisation works with employers and health boards across Scotland to implement preceptorship programmes for nurses and AHPs.
You may be involved in a preceptorship programme at different points throughout your working life. It's a great way of demonstrating learning against the four pillars of practice, whether you are a preceptor or preceptee.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
The programme lasts 12 months and is available to newly qualified Band 5 physiotherapists in their first year of employment.
Ioan Vaughan, Band 6 physiotherapist: 'The support it gave me as I found my feet was invaluable. It provided a platform in which I could talk openly with a senior member of staff in a holistic way that was not strictly clinically focused. I was able to lead the discussion within the monthly one-to-one meetings with my preceptor, allowing me to discuss my wellbeing and to reflect on my time as a qualified member of staff.
I have completed the programme and have now moved into a preceptor role for the upcoming cohort of band 5s that will begin their journey with us.'
Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust
The programme lasts 12 months and is available to nurses, nursing associates and AHPs. It is for all new graduates, internationally educated new staff members and return-to-practice staff.
Meri Sabadera, physiotherapist: 'The programme has made me feel valued as a newly qualified member of staff. It shows the willingness to invest in the support for new staff as it can be scary and overwhelming.
It has helped me to translate the theory into real-life scenarios and to become more confident in difficult situations – situations that I may not have experienced as a student.'
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust
The 10-month programme involves up to 10, four-hour face-to-face learning sessions plus online formative learning to supplement each session. They include many topics including reflective practice, inter-professional learning, quality improvement (QI) and communication skills.
Aaron Philips (a physiotherapist returning to practice): 'Initially, there was a feeling of guilt being away from the clinical environment, but the reaction and acceptance has been really good! It's broadened my horizons for crucial professional development early in my career and introduced me to reflection (clinical and non-clinical), self-development and how it can influence clinical and professional development, as well as complex situations and how to manage them in a safe and supported environment.'
I would like to implement a preceptorship programme in my trust – how do I get started?
Firstly, have a look at the websites and publications listed above to find out more about what is available already. Work is still being developed so sign up for updates with HCPC, HEE and Flying Start.
In 2010, the Department of Health created a framework for nurses, midwives and AHPs. It includes definitions, benefits, content idea and standards for preceptorship programmes. See a PDF of the Preceptorship Framework online.
Often there is development work being done in local AHP faculties in England. It is worth contacting those near you to see if there is a preceptorship lead or current project.
A number of trusts that have implemented AHP preceptorship programmes have worked with nursing colleagues to see where the courses overlap, then created specific contents that are more suitable for AHPs. Speak to education leads and different AHP leads within your organisation to establish what programmes or structures are in place already and what is needed.
What can I do if my employer does not have a preceptorship programme?
We would recommend that you familiarise yourself with preceptorship by completing the Health Education England step-to-work e-module on elfh. It will provide guidance, support, and practical tools to help you reflect on the experiences and knowledge you have already gained to help with future roles.
This work has been supported by NHSE (formerly HEE).