Precepting new nurses is an essential job for any department.
You’ll be asked to do it if your nurse manager recognizes you as an expert in the department and someone with good communication skills.
While getting picked is an honor if you’ve never taught before, it may feel like you’ve been dropped into the pool’s deep end.
Don’t stress. Here are ten tips to help you develop a personal precepting approach.
How to Orient New Nurses
1. Set Clear Goals
Setting clear goals for each day you meet with your nurse orientee will make the teaching process run smoothly and enable you to track all the skills you’ve taught.
Clear written goals will help ensure that all essential information is covered.
For example, on your first day, you may have goals such as:
As your time together progresses, your goal may be to teach them the most important patient care skills.
If you’re in a med-surg unit, your goal may be to ensure the new nurse is skilled in inserting IV lines and wound care.
If you’re in a neuro unit, your goal may be completing neuro observations correctly.
Whatever it is, have a written plan of what skill you will teach each day.
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2. Be Empathetic
Think back to when you started working as a nurse, remember all the emotions you felt and what you wish you had been told when you started.
Reflection will help you understand where your student is at right now, both emotionally and skill-wise.
The best thing to do is to share some of your personal journey in nursing to let your students know that most nurses feel unsure and lost in those first days.
Reassure them that you’re here to guide them through that unsure period and help them learn to become confident nurses who love their job.
3. Be Patient
It may be difficult sometimes, but try to be as patient as possible with the new nurse. Remember, they’re new and will make mistakes.
It also may take longer to complete tasks. You may take three minutes to retrieve and administer medication to your patient, but the new nurse may need ten minutes for the same task.
Let them take their time; they will improve and get faster as they practice.
Showing patience in your teaching will probably be the best gift you can show the novice nurse.
By not getting frustrated with her, she will feel comfortable and safe doing tasks in front of you without fear of receiving harsh criticism for her performance.
4. Encourage Questions
Even though the questions novice nurses ask may seem a little basic and leave you wondering what they learned at nursing school?
Answer each question as fully as you can. If your student feels they can ask you questions without being made feel stupid, they will ask many more questions.
The beauty of this is that the more questions they ask, the quicker they will learn and become competent nurses. So don’t stop them.
5. Set Rules And Expectations
Your relationship with the new nurse should be cordial and friendly but remember you’re not friends, and that distinction must be made clear from the start.
Clear, concise expectations will make your working relationship easier for both of you.
Communicate your students’ rules and expectations right from the start to help them understand the standard of behavior you expect.
6. Don’t Assume Knowledge
Sometimes preceptors demand too much from new nurses.
You need to avoid situations where you put the orientee in a position where they don’t have the knowledge or skill to do the task they were asked to do.
They may be in unfamiliar territory and be too afraid to admit they don’t know what to do.
Prevent that by assuming they know nothing and delegating tasks only after you have demonstrated them.
Explain everything in plain language first to make sure they understand.
7. Tell Them About the Unit’s Culture
Every department has some unwritten rules that are obvious to all who have worked there for a while but are not obvious to newbies.
Teaching your trainee about the social environment in the unit and how to thrive in it is useful.
For instance, it may be worth mentioning to the orientee that the unit manager is a stickler about punctuality but does not mind if you switch shifts with colleagues.
Explaining these unwritten rules helps the new nurses save face from an otherwise preventable situation.
At the same time, it helps build trust between you and them and helps them feel like they are supported.
8. Practice Daily Reflection
At the end of each day, it’s a good idea to grab a few minutes with the new nurse to review the day.
Review together any positive and negative experiences you shared. What went wrong? Have they made any mistakes, and if so, if they learned how to prevent them in the future?
Also, don’t forget to praise anything that they did right.
9. Use A Trusted Model For Teaching
Nursing and medical schools often use the “see one, do one, teach one” model when teaching complicated skills to trainees.
Showing a new skill to a nurse and then having them do it and even teach it to others ensures that they absorb the fundamental understanding and can practice the skill correctly.
By observing the skill they learn, and then by doing it, they practice the new skill.
When they are required to teach the skill to others, you can observe and test their understanding of what they learned.
10. Ask For Feedback
New nurses are often shy about giving feedback and personal observations of how things are done in the unit. So make time to ask for feedback specifically.
When it’s given, consider it carefully. Don’t be so stuck on something just because “that’s how it’s always been done.”
Having a fresh pair of eyes can give a fresh perspective on how tasks can be done more efficiently.
No experienced nurse became experienced without beginning as a novice.
For many nurses having a preceptor who believed in them and pushed them to be the best made them perform at an excellent level.
You can also do that to someone new in your unit.
Remember, if you approach your assignment with patience and compassion, you will make a great preceptor with whom new nurses will love to train.
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