If you have ever trained someone new to the job or been taught as a newbie, you may have heard the term preceptor. A preceptor is someone who helps take you under their wing to show you the ropes of a new job, in the best case building that foundation for your continued success. Precepting isn’t easy, nor is being precepted especially if things aren’t going well. Here are a few tips for precepting success!
- Set the Stage
As a preceptor, one of the best things I could do would be to sit the learner down and say, “my role is to help you understand the job, but also to protect our patients…I will be giving you feedback along the way, but I don’t know everything, so PLEASE let me know if you see something I am doing you don’t agree with or makes you question patient safety. I also haven’t been in school for a while, so if you have better evidence in something you’ve learned, please share!” By setting the stage that we are all capable of learning and making mistakes it begins to build trust in the learning process from day 1.
- Be Clear on Expectations
You are sitting at the nurses’ station and a colleague is talking about her preceptee and says, “she is ALWAYS late, I’m going to talk to our manager today”. Diving into that a bit more, the preceptee gets here at 6:55 – not late by her expectations for a 7:00am start, but the preceptor thinks she should be here for 6:45am to have time to look up patients. Neither are wrong, but mutual expectations weren’t clear. Try to set these as a preceptee and preceptor from the start of the experience. Explain expectations for success, and that allows for easier conversations when those aren’t being met.
- Learning Preferences are not Just for Patients
You know learning need preferences – reading, listening, kinesthetic, (hands on), visual, ect that we use to assess patients to deliver the best education? Well, those are not just for patients! Have that discussion to understand how your preceptee learns best. If you are someone who likes to talk through everything, but your preceptee likes to read things to have that as a reference – maybe you supplement what you are teaching with a printed policy or procedure. As a preceptee if you are seeing this disconnect, use this as a talking point to get your learning needs met.
- Socialization to the Team
I get it, you are exhausted by the time you and your preceptee get to your lunch break, so you both go your separate ways or zone out on your phones during that time. However, if you are not also working to socialize your preceptee to the team – and more than a simple introduction – they are likely to leave sooner than if you helped make those connections. Drop little nuggets of praise for your preceptee – or if you know your preceptee and the respiratory therapist both like to go mountain biking, then mention it to start a conversation. Socialization is complex, and hard to do on your own, so do your best to be that connector!
- Be Ready to Know and Accept When Things Aren’t Okay
You need to come into the precepting experience knowing that not all experiences end up in a positive way. There may be conflict in your personalities, or in barriers for the preceptee in meeting milestones to be successful in their transition. It’s important to share early on with the preceptee that you are open to them speaking up if they aren’t feeling like they are getting what they need from you too. Have a plan to speak to the educator and/or manager on a regular basis and let the preceptee you will talk about strengths as well as opportunities that they are continuing to work on. The worst thing that you can do is to continue with a poor precepting relationship, both struggling to meet expectations or the ultimate goal of a successful transition to independent work.
Being a preceptor in a learner’s career journey is a position that they will likely not forget from that experience – either good or bad. These simple tips will set you up for success, and in providing a humble, honest, respectful experience you are hopefully building a colleague with those same values!