When you were a new nurse, you probably benefited from the guidance of a mentor as you adjusted to the new working environment and struggled to be an effective nurse right out of graduation. And now that you’ve been working for a while, you may have been chosen to do the same thing for other new nursing graduates.
The role of preceptor is an essential one for helping new nurse grads get into the routine of work and can make the transition from student to professional a much smoother one. Indeed, studies have shown that facilities that include preceptorship opportunities experience a much higher retention rate of new nurses than those that do not include it.
Accepting the preceptor role is a big responsibility. You’ll be in charge of helping a new nurse get adjusted and hopefully learn to love the career. Your influence could mean the difference between a successful nurse and one who burns out quickly and leaves the profession.
To help you in this new and challenging role, here are a few tips that will make mentoring a new nurse grad through preceptorship beneficial for both them and you.
- Get Personal
It is very likely that a new nurse grad might feel that the profession is not exactly what they had expected during school. And chances are, you probably felt the same way at one point. In fact, you’ve probably gone through a lot of the same emotions and struggles that your nursing grad is experiencing. The best thing you can do to get this preceptorship on the road is to get a little personal. Share with them why you got into nursing and what it was like for you when you were just starting out. Share your struggles and triumphs; help them see that they aren’t alone and that you are there to guide them.
The more authentic you are with your nurse, the more they will begin to trust you and your judgment in certain situations. It will also establish a great foundation for communication that will continue throughout your time together. This will help both of you feel comfortable with each other and your relationship.
- Practice Patience
You most likely have a lot of patience; you’re a nurse, after all! You’re constantly dealing with difficult patients and demanding managers. Your new nurse will need to see that patience, and your life will be a lot smoother if you find some extra for her! Remember that they are brand new; they will make mistakes. Be patient and understanding as you work with them to correct problems or fix what they did wrong. Try to keep anger and frustration off your face and away from the nurse. If you’re feeling those emotions, express them in private to yourself or to your family. Keeping those feelings out of work will be the best move for everyone.
- Let Them Ask Questions
While we can’t really make them ask questions, you should really encourage them to do so. They will have a ton of questions right from day one, so make sure they know that they can ask you anytime. You may eventually grow tired of answering these questions constantly, but remember that if they are asking, they are learning. The more they ask, the quicker they grow, which means you won’t be stuck answer questions forever. It’s more like a sled on a hill – the steeper the hill, the faster you slide down and the more you can coast at the bottom. Likewise, the more questions they ask at first, the quicker they will build their knowledge base and the faster you both get to the smooth sailing (or sliding).
- Get Off on the Right Foot
While your professional relationship with your new nurse grad should be one based on trust and open communication, they also need to know what you expect from them. This should be laid out on day one with them. As soon as you get your assignment, make a list of rules and expectations you expect them to follow. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit brisk with them; the clearer and more concise your expectations, the more likely they are to follow them. This will make both of your lives easier as you work together.
- Reflect Daily
In order for your new grad (or anyone, really) to improve in what they are doing is to reflect on what they have already done. It’s a good habit to get into to end each day with a few moments together to run through the positive and negative experiences they had that day. Review any mistakes they made and ask if they understand what went wrong and what they can do better. Don’t forget to take the time to praise them for the good work that they did do during the day. This will help them stay confident, despite any missteps.
Being a preceptor for a new nursing grad is a tough job that carries a lot of responsibility. However, by following the above tips, you’ll be sure to be the best mentor that a new nurse can have as they navigate the difficult road of nursing.