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This is the second part of a special two-part article on the importance of nurse preceptorship and mentoring. Click here to read Part One.

Ethical Standards, Just Culture, and the Faculty/Mentor/Preceptor – Student Relationship

Ethics and standards in nursing are principles associated with values, human conduct, and consideration for others. Nursing ethics, in particular, are ethical principles that guide practice. The principles related to nursing ethics and bioethics overall are beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, justice, and fidelity. Each of these principles contributes to the foundation of nursing education and practice principles, and standards of practice devised by organizations, such as the American Nurses Association (ANA), the International Council of Nurses (ICN), and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

According to the ANA Code of Ethics 6.3, the nurse has a responsibility to contribute to an environment that encourages transparency, support, effective interpersonal communication, and respect.11 The National League for Nursing (NLN) indicated that another component of the guiding principles for nursing education is integrity. To exhibit integrity, it requires one to treat others respectfully while communicating courteously and positively.11 Additionally, the NLN identified diversity as an important guiding principle. The NLN position on diversity maintained that the faculty/mentor/preceptor member supports open communication, fosters uniqueness, utilizes innovative teaching strategies regardless of race, gender, religion, age, financial status, physical abilities, or other belief systems.11 The NLN indicated that to create an environment that supports diversity, inclusion, and just culture. All persons should provide open and respectful exchanges.11 This is not limited to the faculty/mentor/preceptor member.

Some of the ways that faculty/mentor/preceptor can achieve creating a just culture is to encourage the students to engage in self-reflection, promote professional practice standards within the curriculum, and be effective role models for collegial.1 Intimidation and disruptive behaviors foster medical error and create poor patient satisfaction, increase the cost of care, and cause knowledgeable clinicians to leave the workforce in search of new professions, thus increasing turnover and shortage rates. Therefore, the faculty/mentor/preceptor can engage and empower the student by creating a culture that is free from intimidation and punitive sanctions.11

Ten best practices to be used to incorporate standards into nursing practice and nursing education, which are: 1) support the nursing code of ethics; 2) offer ongoing education; 3) create an environment where nurses can vocalize concerns; 4) employ interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning; 5) enlist nurse ethicists to speak to nurses; 6) provide unit-based ethics mentors (for practice); 7) hold a family conference (in the practice setting); 8) sponsor an ethics journal or club; 9) reach out to other professional associations for resources; and, 10) offer employee or student counseling services.12 The ANA Code of Ethics, for instance, is a framework for nursing practice.11 Therefore, nurses should be familiar with this code and utilize it as a personal framework for practice.11, 12  

The Impact of Negative Role Models

Negative role-modeling, horizontal violence, and aggression on the part of faculty or nurses in the clinical setting each serve to promote barriers in effective precepting and mentoring for the student or trainee. A study performed identified that barriers related to negative role modeling, such as passive-aggressive and threatening behavior and negative faculty and clinical staff attitudes, impede learning and threaten student progression and retention in nursing programs.13 Low retention rates of nursing students directly impact the matriculation of more nurses into the nursing profession, where a shortage already. Students who cannot identify with the nursing profession or fail to become socialized within the profession would eventually leave.13

Negative role models infringe upon the students’ ability to learn and contribute to a negative psychosocial learning environment.13 As the need for new nurses grows concerning an encroaching nursing shortage, effective management of the clinical setting related to students’ ability to think and effectively learn critically is vital. Negative role modeling and horizontal violence occur in both the clinical and classroom settings and have a deleterious impact on the nursing student’s ability to learn and critically think.

The Continuous Need

There is a driving need to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the demands and interpersonal issues evident in today’s patient populations.14 Today’s faculty members, mentors, and preceptors will need to address the needs of a changing society, act as change agents for progress, and be skilled and knowledgeable of technological advances. Further, today’s students need creative learning environments that encourage ethical standards, promote effective interpersonal behaviors, and educate students in rendering multidisciplinary care. The future of health care delivery systems will rely on a multidisciplinary approach to rendering safe and effective care. With the management of care serving to emerge as a critical component in health care delivery, nurses must exhibit leadership and skill in interdisciplinary and collaborative practice to improve health care delivery and quality.

Thus, the faculty mentor and clinical preceptor must incorporate methods to increase interdisciplinary collaboration, education, practice, and exchanges. Furthermore, both are charged with preparing current and future nurses for growth in their respective roles as members of the interdisciplinary health care team. Nurses are being called upon to fill expanding roles and to master technological tools, information management systems while collaborating and coordinating care across teams of health professionals. Therefore, they must work diligently to prepare future nurses for the challenging clinical environment that awaits them.


11American Nurses Association (ANA). (2001). Code of ethics with interpretive statements. Retrieved from

12Wood, D. (2014). 10 best practices for addressing ethical issues and moral distress. Retrieved from

13Hawthorn, D., Machtmes, K., & Tillman, K. (2009). The lived experience of nurses working with student nurses in the clinical environment. The Qualitative Report, 14(2), 227-244. Retrieved from

14Wilcock, P. M., Janes, G., & Chambers, A. (2009). Health care improvement and continuing interprofessional education: Continuing interprofessional development to improve patient outcomes. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 29(2), 84-90. doi:10.1002/chp.20016

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Nancy Bellucci, Ph.D., MSN-Ed. RN, CNE, CNOR

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