It is not uncommon that most of the new nurses in hospitals right now are new graduates.
They are experiencing their first few weeks out of nursing school and learning to practice in the real world. After 20 years of being a nurse, I still remember my first few months as a brand new nurse caring for patients on a medical-surgical unit.
On the one hand, I was so happy to be out of nursing school and learning how to be a “real” nurse. I felt empowered and excited to begin my career. On the other hand, I had a healthy dose of fear. I did not want to make a mistake and hurt anyone. I wanted to be a high-functioning team member and help my patients in their time of need.
She had a great balance of knowing when to trust me and knowing when she needed to take the lead as I learned how to give medications, admit and discharge patients, and balance the care of our patient assignment.
Many of you may be precepting your new colleagues for the first time this year. Just like being a new nurse, being a new preceptor can be a daunting task. But it is one of the most important jobs you will have as a nurse
Introducing a new nurses to our profession and ensuring they are competent and provide excellent patient care is our responsibility to our patients. I must admit that being a preceptor wasn’t always my favorite role. I had a routine as I cared for my patients, and that routine had to change (which I didn’t like very much) when I was orienting a new coworker.
However, I learned to value being a preceptor because I enjoyed watching my preceptees learn the role and become high-functioning nurses and teammates. I gained as much satisfaction precepting a new nurse as I did when a patient improved and got to leave the hospital and return home.
Every nurse is different and unique, and as preceptors and mentors, we must allow enough grace for them to learn in their own time while continuing to meet the expectations laid out in the orientation process. So what I’m saying is that some of our new nurses will need more support in those first few weeks out of orientation, and it is up to all of us to be open to their questions and jump in to help them.
Even if you are not a preceptor, the new nurses are watching you as they learn. Whether we know it or not, we are modeling the skills, attributes, and behaviors that those nurses will learn. I know I learned a lot about prioritizing patient care tasks, interacting with patients, and becoming a good team member by watching all of my new coworkers, not just my preceptor, when I was in orientation.
Throughout our nursing career, we have opportunities to serve as a mentor. These relationships can start early in our careers. Check out the Mentoring page; we have a mentoring guide that has resources for mentors and mentees.
In addition, there is a resource guide for site coordinators so organizations can build their own mentoring programs. What are your thoughts about serving as preceptors and mentors? What support do you need when serving in these roles?
We would love to hear from you so that we can provide the products and services that assist you throughout your career. Thank you for caring for patients, working through the challenges you face every day, and for showing the next generation of nurses the way.