Orientation or preceptorship is the introduction to your new career and job and may be long or short in duration. Depending on the area in which you are working, it may encompass several days of classroom learning followed by unit orientation. If you are expected to float, you may also be expected to orient on several different units. No matter the length of orientation, there are several things you can do to make your orientation as smooth an experience as possible.

Get Organized

  • Know prior to your first day what type of uniform to wear or the organization’s dress code, what time to show up, where to show up, and what supplies to bring.
  • Many areas of nursing, particularly subacute and rehabilitation, may expect you to bring your own thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, and pulse oximeters. Question whether this is the case in your work area.
  • Have access to unit specific (i.e. medical surgical) information, skills instructions, and patient drug information in case your facility does not have skills, policies, procedures, and other resources online.
  • Complete all necessary paperwork and/or online educational offerings as required.
  • Review a unit specific text. This will help to refresh your member on basic concepts.
  • Review your nursing skills text.
  • If your facility uses electronic medical records, you must still be aware of how to properly author a narrative note and what information is important to include in your documentation. Review documentation guidelines.
  • Consider adding an application to your cell phone to access key references. Be aware, however, that some institutions will not allow you to access your phone during work time

Meet and Greet

  • Arrange to meet your preceptor (and some of your fellow staff) prior to the start of your orientation or work experience. When you return for your first day of work, seeing a familiar face will help to reduce your stress level.
  • Take the time prior to your first day to meet with the staffing coordinator. Obtain a copy of your schedule. Negotiate for any days off you are aware of needing for preplanned vacations, school, or other circumstances.
  • Seek out new learning opportunities. It can be a way to introduce yourself to other members of the team.
  • Practice good communication. Be an active listener.

Take Precautions

  • Inquire whether you will be orienting on the same unit and on the same shift. New nurses are often moved from unit to unit during orientation to learn in multiple areas and from multiple nurses.
  • If you are moving throughout the facility during orientation, be sure that you will be with one nurse during that time on a specific unit. If you are inconsistently supervised by your preceptor, the documented or actual outcome may not be ideal or fair.
  • If your preceptor takes time off during the preceptorship, your orientation may not go smoothly. If his or her time off is excessive (say a week or more), inquire whether you may be assigned another preceptor.
  • If you are off an excessive number of days, you will not have a complete orientation and may be ill prepared to work. Plan your vacation accordingly and give yourself plenty of time and opportunity to complete orientation.
  • Be honest about your limitations, your skills ability, and your knowledge base. Think about enrolling in an RN refresher course prior to your job search. Make your preceptor aware of any limitations in skill level so that they can be addressed during orientation.
  • Don’t perform nursing care outside your scope of practice. Know your limitations with regard to what you have been taught and basic nursing practice.

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, Fast Facts for the Nurse Preceptor: Keys to Providing a Successful Preceptorship in a Nutshell, and Fast Facts on Combating Nurse Bullying, Incivility and Workplace Violence: What Nurses Need to Know in a Nutshell, which was awarded second place in the 2017 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Professional Issues category.

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