Bill would create tax credit for Iowa’s nurse preceptors

DES MOINES — Nursing programs around the state are asking lawmakers to create a tax incentive for nurses who agree to guide nursing students through something similar to an apprenticeship. Dr. Candace Chihak, chair of the nursing department at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, says these nurses are called preceptors and they are currently volunteering their time.

“All of our students at all levels, a lot of times they will go one-on-one with a practicing nurse,” Chihak says. “…They’re working with patients on their unit with a practicing nurse, learning their skills in how to care for patients.”

Seniors at Briar Cliff who are studying for a bachelor’s degree in nursing are to spend 120 hours with a licensed nurse who agrees to be a preceptor. “That 120 hours they’re working they’re working that nurse’s shifts, they’re taking are of that nurse’s patients,” Chihak says, “but they’ve got that safety net of having that nurse there to make sure everything’s going smoothly, that they’re making good decisions before they graduate and are completely on their own.”

Chihak and other educators say it’s hard to find nurses who’ll volunteer to be preceptors and providing some sort of state financial incentive would help. “There’s such a huge nursing shortage right now and you need to be practicing at least a couple of years before you take on the role because you’ve really got to feel confident in what you’re doing and there’s so many new nurses, but we’ve had so many leaving the field and the ones that are there so overwhelmed and burned out that we’re looking for a little extra incentive for them,” Chihak says.

A handful of states offer income tax credits to doctors or nurses who agree to be preceptors for medical or nursing students. A proposal to establish a $1000 Iowa income tax credit for nursing preceptors cleared a House subcommittee this week.