Preceptorships are a vital part of the nursing orientation process. While preceptees should always take responsibility for their own learning, there are a few things preceptors can do to help their new nurses succeed.
- Building a relationship
Because the success of nursing preceptorships relies on the successful partnership of preceptors and preceptees, establishing a trusting relationship is one of the most important responsibilities for preceptors. Make it clear that both parties are partners working towards a common goal of expanding clinical knowledge. In the first meeting, clear goals and responsibilities should be established so that both preceptor and preceptee know what is expected of them, and that they can count on each other to fulfill them.
Throughout the nursing orientation period, encouraging preceptees to manage their own learning, while providing guidance and feedback, will prepare new hire nurses to smoothly transition out of the preceptorship.
- Communication and conflict management
Developing competence in communication is a critical skill for novice nurses. Lack of clear communication can also be a source of stress or conflict encountered during the orientation/ residency program. Provide specific expectations of preceptee responsibilities and tasks each day; check on progress at midday and at the end of the shift have a quick review of key accomplishments; provide positive feedback and feedback and clarify any issues.
- Giving feedback
A preceptor can initiate a feedback-friendly environment by demonstrating a sincere interest in their preceptee’s development as a nurse:
- What is his/her background?
- What are his/her career goals?
Knowing this, preceptors can show the connections between current skills and eventual requirements and expectations. Be sure preceptees can witness veteran nurses giving and receiving feedback from coworkers, physicians, and patients. Involve other co-workers: Ask others to let preceptors know about a preceptee’s positive performance so they can be included in evaluations. Ask them to give positive comments to preceptees as they observe them “doing the right thing or doing something right.” Also, ask co-workers to refer negative criticism directly to preceptors, not to others on the unit, so that preceptors can speak with the preceptee directly. This builds trust with the preceptee.
- Holding effective meetings
Having a consistent meeting scheduled each week is extremely helpful to the preceptorship success. The predictability reduces anxiety and provides the structure needed for your preceptee to effectively prepare and participate in planning goals and evaluating their own performance.
- Keep VARK in mind
VARK is a leaning inventory developed by Neil Fleming that classifies learning styles in four easy to remember categories: (V)isual learning, (A)uditory learning, (R)ead/Write learning & (K)inesthetic learning. Establishing effective teaching strategies for each type of learner will increase the success of every part of the preceptorship.
- Developing well-being and resilience.
Retention rates for new nurses is almost always a concern for hospitals. Focusing on reflection and self-care during nursing orientation is one way to use preceptorships to improve retention. Preceptors should encourage their preceptees to take time to reflect on their experiences and take note of how they are feeling so they can avoid getting overwhelmed. There are many resources available on the web for learning mindfulness and relaxation techniques, including this guide from the University of Maryland, to share with preceptees.
Keeping detailed records of each area of training for preceptees will guarantee that there are no gaps in competency and will help reduce turnover for new nurses.
Did you know there is a new online tool to support a better nursing orientation that can help you manage all of these elements? The Preceptorship Support Platform provides a customizable tool to hospitals looking to improve their preceptorship outcomes.