I am having trouble working with my preceptor. What should I do?

By | 2022-02-14T18:09:54-05:00 November 3rd, 2011|0 Comments


Dear Donna,

I have been in my present job for less than a year, and a month ago my preceptor and I disagreed about how to handle a work issue. Because I was getting contradictory information from my preceptor and the other department with which I was working, I went to my director and asked how I should handle the situation. A week later, I was called into the director’s office. One of my co-workers (my preceptor) reported to her that I appeared drowsy during meetings with other departments. They were concerned my medications for a chronic condition were not regulated properly and I was an embarrassment when I appeared this way. I don’t recall ever appearing this way, and no one in the office had expressed any concerns about my health.

Since then, my preceptor barely acknowledges me. She turns her back to me when having conversations with other staff, rolls her eyes when I talk and is rude and disrespectful. The director and my preceptor have worked together for years — so I think when I discussed my issue with the director, she confronted my preceptor, which led to the accusation.

Do I suffer in silence until another job becomes available? The person who previously had my job left because of this person’s antics. I am so depressed. How do I deal with this situation?

Depressed RN

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Depressed RN,

Whether you stay or go, consider taking some additional steps to resolve this situation. Is there a hospitalwide nurse educator who is responsible for your orientation? Sometimes new nurses and their preceptors do not hit it off. You can request to have another preceptor.

Also look to other friendly and competent nurses on your unit for help, advice and support in developing your nursing skills and knowledge. They usually are all around you if you seek them out. You don’t have to rely on your preceptor for everything — especially if she is avoiding you. You can try simply focusing on doing your job to the best of your ability.

Read “Seven Strategies for Managing Conflict” (www.dcardillo.com/articles/sevenstrategies.html). I also discuss how to handle a challenging preceptor situation (and more, including how to find the right work setting for you) in my book “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” (http://ce.nurse.com/7010).

In the meantime, be sure to immerse yourself in the community of nursing. Join and become active in your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org). Many local chapters have reduced dues for new nurses, and those dues may be tax-deductible. Check with your accountant. You cannot stay isolated in nursing and thrive. Read “Lean on Me” (www.dcardillo.com/articles/leanonme.html).

Because not every unit and workplace is a good fit for every nurse, it always is wise to actively network, explore job options and keep some irons in the fire.

Best wishes,


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