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Between learning charting systems, locating supplies, and reading up on department policies, one’s orientation can be MORE than frustrating. Here are eight tips to help make your orientation a success, whether you’re a new nurse OR just changing nursing specialties.

1. Arrive Early.

Show that you are dependable and eager to get started!

2. Come prepared.

Stethoscope, hemostats, trauma sheers—whatever is needed for the area you’ll be working in, as well as your orientation book.

3. Bring Food.

I recommend things that are easy to store and don’t require a lot of prep time: such as sandwiches or protein-rich healthy snacks.

4. Take Notes.

While it’s not feasible to write down EVERYTHING the preceptor says, listen for phrases like, “With every patient we check for…” Or, “Make sure after you give this medication that you document…” You’re looking for things that you’re not familiar with and/or that are specific to the area you’re training in.

5. Be Respectful.

Your preceptor may be older or younger than you; they may have more nursing experience, or less than you. But there’s a reason the manager or nurse educator picked them to be your preceptor. Keep this in mind and follow their lead.

6. Ask Questions.

During your orientation if there’s anything you don’t understand, or you’re not absolutely sure about, speak up and get clarification.

7. Stay Honest.

Preceptors ask questions like, “Are you familiar with X?” Or, “Have you ever done Y?” There is no right or wrong answer; we’re just trying to determine to what extent we need to cover something. Be honest, and you’ll receive the training that you need.

8. Anticipate What’s Next.

Several weeks into your orientation you should be catching on to the swing of things AND be able to do simple tasks without being prompted by your preceptor. Do this, and you will gain their respect, and they will trust you with more!


Nancy Congleton, RN

Nancy Congleton, RN, is a Registered Nurse and author of Autopsy of the NP: Dissecting the Nursing Profession Piece by Piece, which will be released August 22, 2018. Learn more at
Nancy Congleton, RN

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