5 traits of a bad preceptor

See one. Do one. Teach one.

This mantra is well-known in the nursing world. It’s how we as nurses have learned and will learn most of the skills (and knowledge) we possess.

The application of knowledge into practice is an amazing challenge. None of these skills would be part of our repertoire without the expert tutelage of a sage preceptor. That nurse who has experience in the trenches, who has walked the walk. Every nurse can tell you a story or two about their preceptors.

Unfortunately, there are some who should not be given the responsibility to teach and guide those who require it. Precepting an inexperienced nurse takes a unique set of traits. The following are five traits that, if you possess, means you might want to rethink being a preceptor:

Hearing but not listening

  • This is when you nod appropriately when the student is explaining or presenting, yet you simply let them talk for the sake of talking. Learn to pay attention to what the student is saying.

No feedback

  • After a skill is performed, you don’t rate performance. You give the students no inclination of whether they are doing well, or if they lacking the skills needed to succeed. Negative feedback is still feedback, but be sure to be constructive and not demeaning.

No inquisition

  • During a new learning experience, you fail to challenge their thought processes. Having them cognitively process the skill first prompts them to think about what they are doing, not just perform it.


  • Everyone has a different learning curve. Some are fast learners, others need a little extra care. You should have the time to explain a concept before and after the experience. As a preceptor, expect to have longer days.

Instructing instead of teaching

  • There’s an amazing difference between instructing from personal experience and perspective and guiding students through their own thought processes. It’s your job to help them navigate through the obstacle when they veer off the path. It’s not your job to steer the wheel.

Anyone else care to add to this list?

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3 Responses to 5 traits of a bad preceptor

  1. mumsy512 RN

    Do’t give an orientee your entire assignment while you go for a two hour lunch.

  2. cwinkles

    I totally agree!

  3. Danna Springer

    Hostile preceptor-
    Openly hostile towards the preceptee. The preceptor I had was horrible. I had been a nurse for 15 years and was assigned a preceptor, a nurse of 3 years. She literally threw me under the bus every chance she got to our coworkers and nurse manager. It was the absolute worse job experience I had ever as a nurse. Needless to say I didn’t stay long.