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FAQ External Clinical Faculty

What is an External Clinical Faculty member?

An External Clinical Faculty member is an experienced RN who provides clinical supervision of a Longwood BSN student during in the clinical segment of NURS 392- Nursing Care of Patients with Complex Health Problems (also called the externship) or NURS 492 - Transition to Professional Practice Practicum (also called the internship).

Are there specific formal educational requirements to be an External Clinical Faculty member?

The Virginia Board of Nursing requires that a preceptor be a Registered Nurse, with an active nursing license in the Commonwealth of Virginia and appropriate clinical expertise. Although the Longwood program is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (BSN), the preceptor does not have to be a BSN. We do, however, look for RN preceptors with excellent clinical skills and experience, including good communication skills.

What is the difference between a Practice-based Preceptor and an External Clinical Faculty member?

Both the Practice-based Preceptor and the External Clinical Faculty member are experienced RNs who work with a Longwood BSN student in a clinical setting. The primary differences are the length, depth, and organization of the clinical experience and the broader responsibilities of the External Clinical Faculty member.

What are the responsibilities of an External Clinical Faculty member?

The External Clinical Faculty member serves as a host, sponsor, teacher, and role model for the nursing student while the student is in the agency and caring for the patients/clients for whom the External Clinical Faculty is responsible. She or he orients the student to the agency/unit, selects clients and learning experiences to meet the course objectives, provides real-time supervision, facilitates critical thinking regarding planning, implementing, and evaluating care, and provides guidance to the student to manage patient care situations. The External Clinical Faculty member provides ongoing evaluation of the student's performance and, in consultation with the Longwood faculty, plans additional experiences on the basis of the evaluation. For more information, see Responsibilities Chart

What are the responsibilities of the Longwood faculty member(s)?

The Longwood faculty member retains overall responsibility for the guidance and evaluation of the student's learning experiences. The faculty member provides the information needed by the External Clinical Faculty member to know what the student needs to learn and what types of clinical experiences are appropriate to achieve the learning objectives. The Longwood faculty member assures regular communication, consultation, and feedback to the External Clinical Faculty member. For more details, see Responsibilities Chart.

What are the responsibilities of the Longwood nursing students?

The student is expected to work the schedule of the External Clinical Faculty member for the duration of the clinical experience, and is responsible for negotiating or communicating any deviation from that schedule. Longwood nursing students are active participants in their own clinical learning. Each student knows his or her learning objectives, skills competencies, and learning style. She or he discusses the selection of patients/clients to meet course objectives, the creation of the plan of care, and the delivery of the care with the External Clinical Faculty member, seeks regular feedback, and helps evaluate his or her own performance.

How much time does it take?

The length, depth, and breadth of the clinical experience that a External Clinical Faculty member supervises depends on the course the student is taking. The summer externship associated with NURS 392 requires a minimum of 56 hours of direct clinical patient care. The internship associated with NURS 492 in the spring semester of the senior year is the most intensive clinical course of the Longwood BSN program and requires 280 direct contact hours. Since the student works whatever schedule his or her External Clinical Faculty member works, and cares for the patients/clients for whom the External Clinical Faculty member is responsible, most of the planning, preparation, and student performance evaluation can be accomplished within the worked hours.

Where do these experiences happen?

The experiences typically take place in the agency or organization where the External Clinical Faculty member is employed.

Do I have to have the permission of my nurse manager to participate?

Yes. External Clinical Faculty are selected collaboratively by the Longwood nursing faculty member and the designated institutional liaison to the Longwood BSN program. The agency liaison may be a nurse manager, nurse educator, or other nursing leader in the unit or agency where the clinical experience occurs. Together the institutional liaison and the faculty member select the most appropriate, most qualified RN staff to be appointed as External Clinical Faculty. If you think you are interested in and qualified to be an External Clinical Faculty member, be sure to talk with your nurse manager.

Are there any special training sessions I need to take or do to be an External Clinical Faculty member?

Yes. Because the clinical experiences are longer and more complex, and involve a greater level of independent supervision of students than the other clinical courses, we require External Clinical Faculty to review and sign the External Clinical Faculty Handbook which will be provided to you by the Longwood nursing faculty.   This handbook includes specific information about the course, an introduction to key precepting skills and approaches, and evaluation tool. We also provide on-line access to Helpful Resources, a broad set of resources on effective clinical teaching and evaluation skills, critical thinking, providing useful feedback, and learning styles. While not required, we encourage all preceptors to make use these additional resources. In the future we plan to offer online training modules for External Clinical Faculty to use toward professional development. 

How will I know what the student is supposed to do?

In both the externship (NURS 392) and in the internship (NURS 492), the student needs to participate actively in all aspects of the professional nursing role. The Longwood faculty member who is responsible for the course will provide course information and learning objectives for the student's experience. He or she also will discuss with you the kinds of experiences the student needs, and the level of knowledge and skills of the student at the beginning of the course and the desired competencies to be achieved by the conclusion of the course. Regular and on-going discussion throughout the course between you and the Longwood faculty member will help you provide effective guidance to the student.

Do I have to evaluate the student's performance?

Your evaluation of the student's learning and performance is necessary and important, and it will be a central determinant of the student's grade. You will be given a focused evaluation form to complete at the end of the student experience, and coaching about the evaluation process. The Longwood faculty uses your clinical evaluation together with other measures to determine the student's course grade. Clinical site visits and/or regular follow-up conferences with the Longwood faculty serve to validate both satisfactory and unsatisfactory student performance and provide coaching as needed for you. If you are concerned about any student, you must discuss your concerns with the Longwood faculty in a timely way.

How will I give feedback to the Longwood faculty?

You will have opportunity to provide written feedback via the evaluation form, and also to talk directly with the Longwood faculty as needed. You will always know how to reach the Longwood faculty while you are with the student.

What if I have a student who is difficult to talk to or doesn't accept feedback or seems defensive?

Set boundaries with the student, such as requesting that the student listen to your feedback completely before responding. Use the objectives for the student's clinical learning, and provide clear examples and explanations. If you are still experiencing difficulty, it is time to communicate with the Longwood faculty.

What if I think the student is unsafe?

Although quite uncommon, it is possible that you might encounter a student whom you believe is clinically unsafe or is performing in an unsatisfactory manner. This is a stressful situation for any clinical preceptor. If you are concerned that a student is engaging in unsafe behavior, you will intercede to stop the behavior, and then immediately contact the Longwood faculty.

What if the student asks questions about nursing that I don't know how to answer?

Honesty is always best, and no one has all the answers. If you don't know but need to find out, your seeking the answer will model for the student how a professional nurse investigates and utilizes knowledge resources. If appropriate to the situation, you also might ask the student to seek the answer and discuss it with you.

Is there a salary/payment for being an External Clinical Faculty member?

No, External Clinical Faculty are not paid for precepting students. It is generally considered a responsibility of a professional to contribute in some way to the preparation of the next generation of professionals. Some hospitals and other healthcare agencies recognize that RNs who precept nursing students develop valuable skills in clinical teaching and supervision that can be used with new agency staff, and the agency may reward staff who serve as preceptors with acknowledgement on the clinical progression system or points toward the annual performance evaluation.

We recognize that as External Clinical Faculty, you dedicate both considerable time and effort, and we do appreciate the valuable service you provide to our students and to the BSN program. We are working with our Clinical Partners  Board (CPAB) to create some additional benefits for our External Clinical Faculty. We expect this discussion to be on-going through the next year, but will keep our agency partners and our External Clinical Faculty informed of our progress.

Does having nursing student externships and internships benefit my agency?

Yes. The exciting thing about these more intensive clinical experiences are the multiple benefits to the students, the precepting RNs, the clinical agency (whether hospital, ambulatory or community organizations), and the Longwood BSN program. Research indicates that students learn not only more advanced clinical skills and improved critical thinking but also absorb a cultural understanding of professional nursing roles, relationships, and opportunities which prepares them for a smoother transition into the world of nursing practice. The precepting RNs (External Clinical Faculty) gain knowledge and expertise in clinical teaching and coaching, a better understanding of educational preparation of the next generation of nurses, and skill in evaluating clinical competency, which enhances their own practice and enriches the expertise of the agency's nursing staff. Precepting RNs may also earn credit toward clinical advancement within their own institution. The interaction of practicing nurses and nursing student learners has been shown to improve the level of evidence-based care and the adoption of best practices within the host agency, and also contributes to the satisfaction of the nursing staff. Additionally, the agency benefits from the opportunity to "get to know" and possibly recruit the soon-to-graduate students; these relationships can ease the transition of the new graduate into their first job, which benefits both the new graduate and the agency. Lastly, the collaboration of the clinical agencies with the Longwood BSN program extends the ability of the Longwood nursing faculty to educate more nursing students with broader clinical experiences, which strengthens the program immeasurably. We believe that internships and externships are a definite "win-win" for all parties.

I have read all the information about being a External Clinical Faculty member and I would like to do it! How do I volunteer?

Since most External Clinical Faculty are recommended by their nurse managers and then selected collaboratively by the designated institutional liaison and the Longwood faculty, the best way to make your interest known is to talk with your nurse manager or nurse director. Tell her or him that you are interested in precepting a nursing student for an internship or externship, whether you have any previous precepting or teaching experience, and what specific clinical expertise you have that would make you a good External Clinical Faculty member.

Thank you for considering volunteering to be an External Clinical Faculty member and sharing your expertise with the next generation of professional nurses!