Preceptor personality types—Sound familiar?

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Though this might be stating the obvious, I need to be heard: there is not a formula for the perfect preceptor—perfect preceptors do NOT exist! Granted, precepting can be a thankless job.

I know nurses who precept other nurses for free, meaning zero compensation from the hospital they work for. In fact, many preceptors do not have the choice of whether or not they will precept during any given shift and are just thrust into the job!

Think of all the talking and teaching and time and knowledge preceptors are expected to part with–all under the usual pressures of getting the job done. Yeah, so while being an orientee can kinda stink, being a preceptor can induce burn-out.

Anyway, I came up preceptor personalities that I think most new orientees encounter:

1. First off is the “Teacher.” These nurses know it all and love sharing their knowledge with orientees. They are loved by their coworkers and especially management because they will take on any orientee under any circumstances and teach the newbie the ropes. The only issue with “the teacher” is that they are often perfectionists and can snap at any moment. Watch out because it will be a crack heard around the world and the fallout can be severe.

2. The second type of preceptor is “Out-of-it.” “Out-of-it” does his job and manages to make the orinetees feel like they are in the way 99% of the time. Nothing is explained, nothing is taught, and the orientees are often on their own. The “Out-of-it” preceptor’s best feature is that the orientees learn hands-on and, yes, make mistakes. As long as the orientees don’t kill anyone, they can learn a lot by jumping in and doing everything without direction. Of course, if the orientees have any sense, they’ll ask for another preceptor!

3. Another preceptor I’ve encountered is “Hands-off.” In other words, the orientee will keep her HANDS OFF the patients while this nurse is in charge, and this kind of preceptor will do EVERYTHING while not imparting one iota of knowledge.

4. One of the best preceptor’s out there is the “Co-worker.” This person will work with their orientee, make a plan to provide good care to the patient while teaching along the way, and provide hands-on experience because they encourage the orientee to do as much as possible. If an orientee gets a “co-worker” they should count their blessings and make sure to provided a thank-you gift at the end of the whole ordeal!

The reality is that a good or bad preceptor makes or breaks orientation for a new nurse. So what have I learned? As a nurse on orientation, it’s important that we give our preceptors a fair chance and try to work with them.  Do you know when to confront a bad preceptor-orientee situation and/or ask for a new preceptor? Share your advice in the comments!

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