The preceptorship of a nurse or student has far-reaching effects, influencing everything from the safety of the patient, to the quality of care the patient receives, and the employment, retention, and job satisfaction of the new nurse. The preceptorship experience will be remembered long after the preceptee has left the facility. How the preceptor conducts both himself or herself and the orientation period will not only influence how the preceptee feels about the profession of nursing for years to come, but the quality of care his or her future patients receive.

Listed below are behaviors attributable to an ineffectual nursing preceptor. If you notice that they reflect your teaching style, then take advantage of preceptor education. Recognize that these behaviors can be changed and that the most successful preceptors do not exhibit these qualities. You are an ineffectual preceptor if:

 

  • You are unclear about the goals of orientation.
  • You do not ascertain the preceptee’s skill and knowledge level prior to the start of orientation.
  • You do not question the preceptee to determine if there are any patient care areas in which he or she feels weak.
  • You do not introduce the preceptee to fellow team members and do not help the preceptee feel like part of the team.
  • You do not orient the preceptee to the unit so that he or she does not know where items or located or typical procedures to follow.
  • The goals and expectations for orientation are unclear and are not stated in writing.
  • The goals you establish are not measurable or achievable.
  • You do not review the goals for the day or for orientation with the preceptee.
  • You are inconsistent in your communication style.
  • You do not allow the preceptee time to practice skills prior to attempting them.
  • You do not build new skills upon current skill level.
  • You delegate to the preceptee beyond his or her skill level.
  • You do not seek out new learning experiences for the preceptee but instead allow the preceptee to find learning situations on his or her own.
  • You fail to provide guidance in the completion of a new skill, assessment, or other nursing function.
  • Your clinical skills and technique are not evidence-based or correct; you take shortcuts to save your time but in doing so may unknowingly endanger the patient. You pressure the preceptee to perform these skills as you do.
  • You leave the preceptee to do the work that other staff do not wish to complete.
  • You are continually rude to the preceptee, fellow staff, families and patients.
  • You allow the preceptee to experience a lot of “down time,” for example by allowing him or her to “hang around” the nurses’ station rather than engaging in patient care or learning new skills.
  • You frequently cancel scheduled meeting times with the preceptee, the unit manager, the unit educator, or faculty members, therefore fallowing communication to break down among all parties.
  • You allow the preceptee to be utilized as staff prior to the end of preceptorship.

Margaret Ciocco

Maggie Ciocco MS, RN, BC, is currently a nursing program advisor for the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, New Jersey. She has over 25 years of experience in nursing education, including as a preceptor, mentor, staff development instructor, orientation coordinator, nursing lab instructor, and clinical instructor. Ms. Ciocco received her master of science in nursing from Syracuse University, her bachelor of science in nursing from Seton Hall University, and her associate degree from Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey. She has been an American Nurses Credentialing Center board-certified medical-surgical nurse for over 20 years. Throughout her years as an educator, she has established preceptorship programs in acute, subacute, and long-term care settings. She is a member of the National League for Nursing. Ms. Ciocco was awarded the Sigma Theta Tau-Lambda Delta chapter Hannelore Sweetwood Mentor of the Year award in 2012. As a nursing program advisor, she works with Registered Nurses and student nurses as they continue their education, mentoring and advising them as to career and nursing degree choices. She is the author of Fast Facts for the Medical-Surgical Nurse: Clinical Orientation in a Nutshell, published by Springer Publishing Company in 2014 and Fast Facts for the Nurse Preceptor: Keys to Providing a Successful Preceptorship in a Nutshell published by Springer Publishing Company in 2016 and for release in summer of 2017 Fast Facts on Combating Nurse Bullying, Incivility and Workplace Violence: What Nurses Need to Know in a Nutshell.

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