By definition a nurse preceptor is an experienced nurse that is enthusiastic and wants to teach others. According to a majority of the preceptor stories I have heard, there was not one preceptor described as an enthusiastic nurse angel that wanted to sprinkle her fairy dust of knowledge on the yellow brick road of orientation that leads you to Kansas. Hospitals spend lots of money to find, hire, orient, and try to keep staff. Its really a lot like dating. Trying to find a match to meet your staffing needs and do work with long term. Except its more like swiping right, meeting once, and saying your vows, then introducing them to the family. Talk about sink or swim and nerve racking!!! No pressure…….
So here is the thing about precepting. Ohhhh you’re not going to like this at all. I already know. However, here it is…… precepting is our responsibility as a team member of our unit. Response + ability= responsibility. So you know how we always seem to complain about being short staffed, or weekends and holidays never being fully staffed adequately, or about the nurse that you always have to pull their weight……. Well unless you’re respond-ing to the call of building up your team then you really don’t have a valid reason to complain about something you have the ability to change. So let’s take RESPONSIBLITY for precepting our new staff so that they want a long term relationship with us. So that we don’t have to complain about not having staff or pulling someone else’s weight. See how that works?!
Here are the Do’s and Dont’s of being a nurse preceptor that you could probably apply to your dating life:
- Don’t be a hag. Many nurses I talked to inserted an explicit word but you get the drift.
- Don’t eat your young. There is no need to haz or throw your orientee out to sink or swim and then throw them a life vest like you’re some amazing nurse. You’re just a jerk.
- Don’t act inconvenienced. When your orientee sees you actually roll your eyes to the fact they’re going to be following you around, you shouldn’t get your feelings hurt when they ask for a new preceptor.
- Don’t belittle them or try to make them feel stupid. Openly criticizing your orientee or being snarky to them to get a giggle from your co-workers or some nursing unit hallway credit only shows everyone about your own small mindedness.
- Don’t use the time to talk negatively about management or another nurse. They will learn it on their own. Not your place.
- Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something. A good orientee will ask a lot of questions and if you don’t know the answer tell them you don’t and help them find the right answer. We are all always learning.
- Don’t assume your orientee knows. It’s ok to preface your time together by saying, “I will probably cover many things that you already know but I want to cover everything just in case you have questions.”. Then cover even those little things that don’t seem like a big deal.
- Do be kind and friendly. Kindness goes a long way.
- Do introduce your orientee to everyone. Other nurses, doctors, house keeping, radiology, lab, EVERYONE. Your introduction will help them be connected.
- Do be approachable. You want to be a resource not just for your orientee but your co-workers as well.
- Do take ownership in the success of your orientee.
- Do have a plan and be organized. Setting a learning goal for every shift together helps you to stay on track and for them to feel like they’re gaining knowledge about their work area.
- Be positive. Good vibes always make everything better. Being positive in a negative situation is leadership.
- Be yourself and do what you do best. Precepting helps you and your orientee grow. There is a reason why you are where you are. Own it.
Remember that leaders are people that help you to believe in yourself. When you encourage and believe in others, their accomplishments become yours as well. I hope this helps you think about things the next time you are asked to precept the new orientee. You never ever know what will become of your experience together. I usually always start out by telling mine the reason they are with me is to show them what NOT to do! I always know how to approach them by if they get my jokes or not:)