When you start your first nursing job, you will be paired with an experienced nurse, also known as a preceptor. Your preceptor will help you learn your unit’s policies and procedures as well as your nursing responsibilities. Here are a few ways to make the most of your nursing preceptor training experience:

1. Get to know your preceptor.

You will be spending many hours with your preceptor, so it is important to build a relationship with them. Ask them questions about their life, why they became a nurse, and what they enjoy most about their job. Communicate with them about what your learning style is and how they can help you succeed. Be honest about any areas where you tend to struggle or might need additional assistance with.

2. Be willing to learn.

Every minute you are on the unit with your preceptor is an opportunity to learn. Watch the way your preceptor interacts with patients and listen to the way they phrase questions. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask about it. Knowing the “why” behind your unit’s practices will help you remember them.

3. Strive to overcome differences.

You may find that you have a different personality than your preceptor. Your preceptor might be outgoing, while you might tend to be reserved and shy. This can cause a strain on your relationship, but it doesn’t mean that the relationship is doomed for failure. Try observing the way that your preceptor’s personality influences the way that they interact with patients and see if you can incorporate their positive qualities into your nursing care.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask your preceptor for help.

It’s okay to admit that you don’t know something. Remember that you are in training and you are not expected to know everything. It is far better to admit that you don’t know something than to endanger your patient’s life to maintain your pride. If you are not 100% sure about what you’re doing, ask your preceptor for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed, let your preceptor know that you need assistance.

5. Debrief with your preceptor after each shift.

It is helpful to sit down with your preceptor after each shift to discuss what went well and what you need to work on. Taking time to reflect on your strengths will build confidence and reflecting on your weaknesses will help you grow. If your preceptor does not have time to sit down and have a discussion, try writing down a reflection of your day and have your preceptor give feedback on what you wrote.

Sarah Cruzan, BSN, RN

Sarah Cruzan is a nurse on a Family Maternity Unit.

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