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Principles for preceptorship

Helping health and care professionals through career transitions

The preceptorship principles and supporting information set out in this document are designed to support all professionals registered with the HCPC to access preceptorship when and where they need it, to support them at key transition moments in their careers, and to help them in providing safe, compassionate and high-quality care.

We know that transitions such as joining the workforce as a new registrant, working in the UK for the first time or returning after a lengthy period away from the workforce, can be challenging for individuals. Well-resourced and tailored preceptorship programmes offer support for HCPC registrants at such moments, giving them the support they need and in a way that can meet their individual circumstances.

We have developed these principles collaboratively, working with the professional bodies that represent our registrants and with individual registrants. We have also engaged with education and training authorities across the UK’s four nations, to ensure they fit with existing and developing preceptorship arrangements in each nation.

Preceptorship principles

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  • Preceptorship is a structured programme of professional support and development designed to improve registrant confidence as they transition into any new role.

    Preceptorship contributes to an organisational culture in which registrants are supported to achieve their potential whilst delivering safe and effective care and treatment.

    Effective preceptorship should:

    a) be embedded in the organisation’s workforce and organisational systems to enable preceptee access and engagement;

    b) comply with equality legislation and take account of national and local equality, diversity and inclusion policies;

    c) provide opportunities for preceptees to develop confidence and to support their future career;

    d) prioritise preceptee and preceptor health and wellbeing; and

    e) promote a culture of learning, self-reflection and safe practice.

    Supporting information: Focus on creating a good culture

  • Preceptorship is an important investment in a registrants’ professional career.

    All registrants should have access to a quality preceptorship programme. It demonstrates the value of individual registrants’ health, wellbeing and confidence during times of transition.

    To enable effective preceptorship there should be:

    a) processes to ensure registrants can access preceptorship and which meets their individual needs;

    b) processes in place to support an appropriate mix of profession-specific, multi-profession and uni-profession learning and development within organisations or with wider system and professional networks;

    c) integration with induction to professional role where appropriate;

    d) recognition of the impact of system challenges and how to mitigate these;

    e) systems in place to monitor, evaluate and review preceptorship programmes;

    f) professional and organisational governance frameworks which allow the process to be audited and reported; and

    g) understanding of, and compliance with, national and local policies, and the relevant governance requirements required by the four countries of the UK.

    Supporting information: Focus on ensuring high quality

  • Preceptorship should be tailored to the individual preceptee, their role and their work environment. Preceptorship should not retest clinical competence but instead, empower the preceptee to reflect on what they bring to their role and identify support needed to develop their professional confidence.

    Effective preceptorship should provide registrants’ with:

    a) access to a preceptorship programme which instils the importance of continuing professional development;

    b) appropriate resources and guidance to develop confidence and support continuing professional development;

    c) a tailored programme of support and learning reflecting individual needs;

    d) an identified preceptor for the duration of their preceptorship; and

    e) autonomy to influence the duration and content of their preceptorship in partnership with their preceptor, others in their organisation and wider professional networks.

    Supporting information: Focus on being a preceptee

  • The preceptor role is a fundamental part of effective preceptorship. Preceptors should have appropriate training, time and support to understand and perform their role.

    Preceptors do not need to be from the same profession as preceptees but should be the most appropriate individual to provide support. 

    In effective preceptorship, preceptors should:

    a) act as a professional role model and be supportive, constructive and compassionate in their approach;

    b) help to facilitate multi-professional aspects of preceptorship where appropriate;

    c) support preceptees to reflect on their development and signpost to relevant support and development opportunities;

    d) support preceptees to engage with their wider profession, and help build networks locally or through external professional networks;

    e) share effective practice and learn from each other;

    f) be encouraged to see the personal and professional benefit of taking on the role of preceptor; and

    g) have access to feedback on the quality and impacts of all aspects of their work as preceptors.

    Supporting information: Focus on being a preceptor

  • Preceptorship programmes should reflect the differences in routes to registration, range and intensity of previous practice experiences, and the variety of services and settings in which registrants work.

    These principles apply to all registrants working in any health or social care setting across UK, including but not limited to, the NHS, the social care sector, and the independent and charitable sectors.

    Preceptorship programmes should:

    a) be tailored to take account of the environment the individual preceptee is working in;

    b) be flexible to support various types of transition in a timely way;

    c) have flexibility to deliver common themes of preceptorship in a multi-professional way while ensuring profession specific elements are provided where necessary;

    d) have a structured design which describes how the programme delivers success for preceptees;

    e) vary in length and content according to the needs of the individual preceptee and the organisation. Individual countries, regions or organisations may set minimum or maximum lengths for preceptorship; and

    f) have awareness of, and align with, other profession specific and workforce development programmes..

    Supporting information: Focus on tailoring outputs

Using the HCPC principles for preceptorship

These principles have been developed following extensive consultation with individual professionals regulated by the HCPC and the professional bodies and groups that represent them.

They have been written to encompass the 15 professions and 33 titles that we regulate, to support those we regulate, in all of the settings in which they work, and in recognition of the different employment arrangements that are in place across the health and care systems in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The five principles are broad in structure, so that they can be easily used across the range of workplaces and contractual arrangements to which our registrants are subject.

We want our registrants to use them to access preceptorship programmes where available, or to help them shape the creation of new ones where they are not.

We intend those running or establishing preceptorship programmes for our registrants to use them as a guide, to ensure programmes meet HCPC registrants’ needs and support improvements in the quality of the services they provide.


Supporting information

The supporting information has been written to help registrants and those delivering preceptorship use the principles in their workplaces and practice.

We believe that well delivered preceptorship support has a key role to play in supporting both current and future HCPC registrants, helping them to achieve their potential and to fully and confidently meet the needs of those they serve.

Supporting delivery of preceptorship principles

The details below expand on the delivery elements of the preceptorship principles, and are provided to support preceptees, preceptors, and those running and evaluating preceptorship programmes. 

  1. Focus on creating a good culture
  2. Focus on ensuring high quality
  3. Focus on being a preceptee
  4. Focus on being a preceptor
  5. Focus on tailoring outputs
Learning material
Information and support
Page updated on: 30/11/2023