“You have to rely on everyone and they on you”: Interdependence and the team-based rural nursing preceptorship


  • Olive J. Yonge University of Alberta
  • Florence Myrick University of Alberta
  • Linda Ferguson University of Saskatchewan
  • Quinn Grundy University of California, San Francisco





A photovoice study was conducted to construct a narrative of teaching and learning to nurse in rural settings as seen through the eyes of nursing students and their preceptors. This article explores the rural context of team-based preceptorship; that is, how interdependence characterizes the quality of the transition from student to professional support networks, and in particular how professional, team-based networks function in rural settings.


Photovoice is a participatory research method wherein participants document their lived reality through photography, and supply narrative context to the photographs through group discussion. Four students and their four preceptors, based at health care sites in rural Western Canada, were supplied with digital cameras with which they took over 800 photographs over a ten-week preceptorship course. Preceptors and students were active participants in generating the thematic data analysis.


The central thesis of this project was that rural nurses bring a strong sense of community ethos to clinical practice. One aspect of this community ethos was the importance of the rural health care team in precepting a nursing student. Students experienced a transition from their urban, school-based networks to rural-based, professional networks; preceptors and the interdisciplinary team supported students through this transition. As students gained independence from the university and emerged from their student status, they were integrated into the rural interdisciplinary team and community, greatly facilitating their transition to graduate nursing practice.


More than any other single aspect of rural nursing, we feel teamwork (and community ethos, by extension) is the key to promoting rural preceptorships and rural careers. This model for preceptorship has implications for selecting rural placements and may be transferable to other settings. Ultimately, this knowledge can be used to strengthen student placements in rural areas with implications for the recruitment and retention of nurses in rural areas.

Key Words: Photovoice, Rural Preceptorship, Participatory Research Method

Author Biographies

Olive J. Yonge, University of Alberta

Olive J. Yonge, RN PhDProfessor & Vargo Distinguished Teaching Chair

Florence Myrick, University of Alberta

Florence Myrick, RN PhD

Professor & Associate Dean,

Teaching in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta.

Linda Ferguson, University of Saskatchewan

Linda Ferguson, RN, BSN, PGD (Cont Ed.), MN, PhD

Professor and Director of CASNIE

College of Nursing

Quinn Grundy, University of California, San Francisco

Quinn Grundy, BSc, RN

PhD Student University of California, San Francisco