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5 traits of a bad preceptee


Thinkstock | Wavebreakmedia Ltd

Thinkstock | Wavebreakmedia Ltd

As a follow-up to my post discussing 5 traits of a bad preceptor, I thought maybe we could talk about the difficulties a preceptor can encounter on the job.

New nurses, or “preceptees,” often don’t appreciate how difficult it can really be to train, educate and nurture a new nurse.

As preceptors, we make a tremendous paradigm shift in our practice. We go from independent, critical thinking, aggressive and timely practitioners to codependent overseers and navigators. While we are eager to teach and share our knowledge, it can be quite challenging to give our preceptees room to learn, especially because everyone learns differently and at a varying pace.

Every so often our job as preceptors gets exponentially difficult when our preceptees don’t toe the line. Do your best to not have any of these traits as a preceptee:

Thin skin

Tough day? Get yelled at? Spit on? Someone didn’t like what you did? Get used to it. Our job is tough, and you NEED thick skin. You need to be able to take a hit or two without getting flustered. If you can’t take constructive criticism, you might want to pursue a different career.

Drone mentality

You do something because you were told, regardless of its outcome. You follow through with a (potentially unsafe) action because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

Not good. Another human being is counting on you to keep him/her safe and improve his/her current state of health. You are now an independent, critical thinking patient advocate. Start acting like it. Know the WHY to EVERYTHING you do. And if you don’t know why, find out. Question everything.


You’ve been at your new job for days and you already have it all down pat. Or you’ve been a nurse for 30 years, and you’ve learned it all–because in your world, the practice of medicine and nursing hasn’t changed. There apparently is only one way to do things…your way. This is the person who hears you, but isn’t actually listening. Oh, and being flippant surely doesn’t make you any smarter. Learn to approach every day of your career as an opportunity to LEARN something new, no matter how small.

Full of excuses

Sometimes called the “reasoner” or the “rationalizer.” These preceptees have a rebuttal for everything. When you try to actually teach them something, they reflexively explain how, when, why and what they are doing…even if it’s the exact opposite of what is required or needed. They tend to have an answer for everything, the good and the bad. Ever heard of passive-aggressive behavior?


Can sometimes hide behind the term “delegator.” These are the worst of the worst. They wiggle and worm their way out of labor, tasks and duties. Either they didn’t hear the call bell (hmm?), are too busy to lend a hand or are “above” those menial tasks that should be assigned or delegated to the student, aid or other non-licensed personnel. In my humble opinion, these are the people who give our profession a bad name. NEVER shy away from pitching in. EVER.

I’m sure there are many qualities that I’ve missed, but I thought these were toward the top of every preceptor’s list. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not out to get you. We’re out to make you better. Because in the end, it’s not about the preceptor or the preceptee. It’s about our patients.

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