We all remember the feeling of being a new nurse. The fear, and being uncertain of every nursing decision you make due to lack of confidence. The self-assurance and belief in yourself as a nurse comes with time and experience. As seasoned nurses, we are responsible for making new nurses feel comfortable and giving them the guidance needed to grow into an integral part of the team. Whether you are taking on the role of preceptor for a new nurse fresh out of school, or to a nurse with years of experience transferring to a new unit- you need to help them build a solid foundation to thrive in their new role.
Preceptor roles are ordinarily assigned to experienced nurses. Each institution has protocols, checklists, and job duties assigned to various units. It is your job as a preceptor to help your orientee find their way around these on their way to becoming an efficient and skillful nurse.
Set Goals Early In Your Preceptor/Orientee Relationship
In your initial meeting with the new nurse, establish goals that you hope to achieve during your time together in orientation. Have the new nurse answer the following questions.
- What do you expect to establish during your time together?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses, and how can those be used to help you learn?
- What are your most significant fears or concerns when it comes to working on our unit?
- What can I do to help you during this experience as your preceptor?
Getting the answers to these questions will help you create a guide to establish your orientee’s learning style and personality. These will be critical to a successful relationship during precepting.
One of the best ways to make new nurses more comfortable is to remind them that all nurses have been in their shoes. Tell stories about things that happened when you were a new nurse and what you learned from that experience. The best preceptors are those that can empathize with their orientee. Being a new nurse is scary! Show them that you remember being where they are so they can see you as a light at the end of the tunnel. One day they won’t be the new nurse anymore and will know what they are doing! It is hard to see that when first starting.
Provide a Safe Learning Environment
When learning to be a nurse in a hospital with sick patients, it is essential for the new nurse to learn in an environment that is both safe for the orientee, as well as the patients of the hospital. One way to ensure safety is to use the “see one, do one, teach one” method when learning new nursing skills. Have the orientee watch you do a skill, practice the skill after that, then “teach” you how to do the skill. Your unit should have a list of competencies that nurses should be checked off on to work independently. Work on these consistently with your orientee to build their confidence. Seeing them excel with these challenges will ensure that you are developing a nurse that can work safely on your unit.
Encouragement and Feedback
Communication with your orientee is crucial during precepting. Always give words of encouragement during and after skills and assessments your orientee does on their own with you observing. Point out things they could do differently as well as what went well. When you have to give constructive criticism, be open and honest. Always intervene if the orientee is about to do something dangerous and debrief once everything is safe. These interactions will hopefully stick with your orientee, and they will always remember why they were corrected.
Your role as a preceptor is much more than being a mentor for a new nurse. You provide a plethora of tools and resources to the new nurse so they can establish their work routine. You support and encourage the new nurse in a time that can be very challenging for them. Building confidence in their skills will allow them to spread their wings and fly. You will take great pride in seeing them develop from a novice to contributing member of your team.
Crystal Lynn Norris RN – Crystal has been a Registered Nurse specializing in Labor & Delivery for the past three years. Her favorite part of her profession is being able to help women to find their strength bringing new life into the world. Crystal is a wife and mother to her sweet daughter Ruby. In her free time, she enjoys writing, traveling, and spending time with family.