Whether you are a student in a clinical preceptorship, or precepting in a new position, there are unwritten rules of “etiquette” in place when working with a nursing preceptor. Follow these tips for a more positive and enriching experience. When in doubt, pause and put yourself in the preceptor’s shoes to gain insight into your responses before you respond.
Never act like you know everything upfront. Using expressions akin to “Duh” or “I knew that” do not bode well for a positive preceptorship experience. Allow the preceptor to do his or her job which is to teach you what you need to know. Until he/she assesses your skill and knowledge abilities, he/she may train you at a level below what you think you deserve. Let him/her make the adjustment based on your demonstrated skills and abilities. Do not act like you are better than his/her training or that he/she is wasting your time!
Be a listerner, not a talker. Your preceptor’s job – in addition to his or her regular duties – is to train you to excel in performing in your new nursing position. He/she is giving you a wealth of information. Listen to that information and write it down if you have to. Don’t interrupt when the preceptor is talking with pearls of wisdom such as, “That’s not how I did it at my last job.” You will not win points. Listening is an active and interactive experience.Be there for it.
Ask lots of questions. Remember, there are no dumb questions – just unasked ones. Your preceptor wants you to clarify issues and asks questions. Don’t save the questions for the day you start working on your own. Question instructions for clarification and further information as needed. You do not look dumb by asking a lot of questions. Your preceptor knows you are listening and are engaged in the process when you ask questions.
Allow your preceptor to be your resource. He/she did not just enter the organization as you are doing. A preceptor is chosen by management because of his/her experience in the job position and nursing skills and knowledge. Use this to your advantage and have the preceptor be your resource for everything. You don’t need to limit this resource to on-the-job duties – they even have useful information such as where the closest bathroom is and what time the cafeteria opens.
Thank your preceptor at every opportunity. When I was working at a pediatric ER, I remember a co-worker, whose nursing student was not following the above tips say, “Time for my 13 dollar headache.” She was getting paid an extra dollar an hour to be a nursing preceptor. Even with a positive experience, that is not close to payment enough for the extra mile a preceptor goes every day for you. You do not need to shower this person with compliments or gifts – although he/she would likely not mind. But you do need to thank this person, at least once a day, for his/her attention to your needs. Expressing appreciation is still one of the best cost-free gifts a person can extend to another.
About the Author: Sue Heacock, RN, MBA, COHN-S is the author of Inspiring the Inspirational: Words of Hope From Nurses to Nurses, a compilation of stories from nurses around the country, with a sprinkling of inspirational quotes. Sue is a Certified Occupational Health Nurse Specialist and has worked in a variety of areas of nursing including pediatrics and research. Before entering the nursing profession, Sue worked in human resources and equal employment opportunity.
Click here to read more on Sue Heacock.