How to be a good preceptee

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Are you facing your LAST clinical rotation before graduation? Here are a few tips for excelling as a preceptee!





  • Arrive 10 minutes before the official report time–appropriately dressed, well-fed and ENTHUSIASTIC!
  • Leave the extra jewelry (diamond rings, bracelets, necklaces and dangling earrings) at home. These items are not safe and are a source of infection. Most are against school and hospital policy in patient care areas.
  • Short nails (NO artificial!) with no chipped polish are expected. This is a CDC standard. Lots of “nasties” have been cultured from nurses’ nails!
  • You will have, of course, already been to the bathroom and done a “mirror check” to be sure that no underwear or tattoos are showing and that your hair is out of the way. We prefer “above the collar.”
  • Introduce yourself to your assigned preceptor and present to him/her your list of learning objectives–this person is your instructor and will evaluate you during your time together.
  • Remember that you are there to watch, listen and learn! It is YOUR responsibility to let your preceptor know what you are or are not allowed to DO.
  • Your preceptor will look for learning opportunities, which may involve: observing surgery, going with a patient to CT scan or MRI, or even assisting another nurse with a procedure.
  • As you get comfortable working together, your preceptor will welcome your input. You will find a lot of things which do not fit the mold you were taught in school.
  • One day you will be given the chance to fly solo–with supervision, of course. On that day you will get report, quickly assess your patient(s) and gather up all lab and X-ray results so they’re there when the MD arrives. You know exactly how much intake and output/bowel movements the patient has had as well as any other information. The Goal is to make the doctor’s rounds go as smoothly as possible and to let them learn to trust YOU.
  • NEVER tell a doctor “I don’t know.” Say instead: “Let me double-check that for you.”(Because of course you know ALL things, but you need to be sure.) This keeps the doctor from becoming anxious about your abilities as a nurse. Remember The Goal.
  • Doctors LOVE to “teach” (i.e. show off what they know); your preceptor often will ask the doctors to describe/show/explain what they are doing in a procedure.
  • Remember that the only stupid question is the one that you do not ASK!

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn (Albert Einstein).

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