The nurse preceptor: What’s in your toolkit?

By | 2022-02-21T17:36:54-05:00 December 15th, 2014|0 Comments

As we greet new nurses into the profession, many are called upon to precept both new graduate nurses, as well as experienced nurses moving into a new specialty area.

What does it take to be a great preceptor? These are the tools we’ve identified as the most important to have in your preceptor toolkit.

1. Patience

Oh, the patience. It’s easy to forget what it feels like to prime feeding bag tubing or reconstitute a medication for the first time. What you can do in 30 seconds, a new nurse might take 10 minutes to accomplish. Patience allows the preceptor to guide with a hands-off approach, even when it’s painfully frustrating to watch.

2. Mentor skills

Precepting is more than just teaching the ins and outs of nursing. A great preceptor not only teaches practical applications but helps the new nurse grow and develop in a way that both challenges them and honors their strengths.

3. Ability to give feedback well

Giving feedback is an important part of precepting. How will a new nurse learn what to do differently or what they did right without it? But there’s definitely a degree of finesse when delivering feedback about how a nurse can improve. Good preceptors know how to give solid feedback while helping a nurse maintain a sense of esteem.

4. An understanding of learning styles

Some learn best with written material, some with demonstration and some need to talk it out. A combination of the three is often ideal, but knowing which style is most compatible with your orientee will amp up their learning factor.

5. Energy and enthusiasm

There’s no question that adding a nurse trainee to your workload can be exhausting. Especially if you take on a few consecutively. Great preceptors know how to dig deep to maintain a level of energy and enthusiasm that your orientee will grab onto.

6. Prioritization and time management skills

If you have difficulty staying organized and prioritizing, your orientee will, too. Modeling good organization and time management skills will help your orientee tremendously.

7. Strong policy and procedural knowledge

Nothing tests your institutional know-how more than when you have to teach a new nurse. Reviewing those essential policies and procedures helps your orientee learn how to approach a clinical procedure or other issue in a way that’s in line with your organization’s guidelines.

8. Role model awareness

Your orientee will learn so much just by watching you in action. They might see you skillfully handle a disgruntled patient, catch an early sign of decompensation, or communicate assertively with a physician. Preceptors teach a lot just by role modeling professional behaviors to orientees who are looking to you for the best approach.

Your turn

Are you a nurse preceptor? What tools does it take to get the job done well? Tell us what we missed in the comments below.

Check out other Toolkit posts

The geriatric nurse

The hospice nurse

The operating room nurse

The pediatric nurse


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