Despite dire staffing shortages, it has never been more difficult to become a nurse. In 2021, while patients languished in emergency room hallways—awaiting beds that sat unused—nearly 92,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs nationwide due to insufficient instructional capacity. Now, Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden will be able to respond to this crisis by launching the first-in-the-nation Clinical Instructor and Preceptor Preparation (CLIPP) Academy this spring. The project is supported by a four-year, $1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
“Without sufficient clinical instructors and nurse preceptors, nursing schools cannot educate enough students to meet the ever-growing demands of healthcare systems," said Marie O’Toole, interim dean of the School of Nursing–Camden. "Students who do enroll often face challenges related to the availability of these professionals. This initiative represents a profound turning point in the nurse staffing crisis. We are immensely proud to be a part of it.”
The academy will leverage Rutgers–Camden’s academic resources and partnerships with hospital systems and community healthcare facilities to provide a formal training program that combines pedagogy, practice, and multilevel mentorship.
School of Nursing–Camden faculty spent the last year developing a digital repository of evidence-based educational resources for aspiring clinical instructors and nurse preceptors. Students in the CLIPP Academy will complete learning modules that employ best educational practices, diverse instructional and evaluation methodologies, and stress-management techniques, allowing the pipeline of future nurses to receive the education they need.
“Many instructors are expert clinicians but novice educators with little to no training,” said Clinical Assistant Professor, Project Director and Principal Investigator Mary Wunnenberg. “Conveying knowledge to others requires a different skill set than acquiring knowledge. The academy will focus on the science of teaching and learning to give students the tools they need to convey knowledge effectively.”
Since 2016, the School of Nursing–Camden has collaborated with Cooper University Healthcare, AtlantiCare, CompleteCare Health Network, and other clinical partners in the development and implementation of this program. Lack of consistent and quality mentorship is a critical barrier to the preparation and retention of clinical instructors and nurse preceptors. Alongside learning modules, CLIPP participants will receive ongoing mentoring.
“Transition to practice can be a very stressful time for new nurses," said Wunnenberg. "Many report disillusionment and question their ability to function in a complex healthcare environment. Good nurse preceptors help new nurses develop their professional identity and learn clinical judgment.”
Currently, the academy is recruiting prospective clinical instructors and nurse preceptor participants who are working with diverse, disadvantaged, and rural populations in the South Jersey region. Beginning in year two, the CLIPP Academy will accept participants in New York, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Those offered scholarships are expected to service as clinical instructors or nurse preceptors for a minimum of two years while providing care to underserved populations.
“The Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden is incredibly passionate about expanding access to high-quality, culturally sensitive care,” said Wunnenberg. “The goal is to build a fully sustainable program that continues to expand and strengthen the pipeline of clinical instructors and nurse preceptors well beyond the grant period.”
Creative Design: Beatris Santos