Starting a brand new job can be (and should be!) a very daunting task for all new graduate nurses. They have just completed their NCLEX and are excited and anxious to start putting their education into practice. What happens next in their nursing experience falls mainly on the preceptor they are assigned to. How can we make them have an amazing learning experience and develop the skills they need to care for patients?
1. Take the time to teach. I must admit that some days are crazy when you are precepting. In the ICU, maybe you have one patient that is crashing and the other that is on and off the bedpan all day. On a general unit, maybe you have six patients and it seems like there are always two of them on the call light. Let's hope that this is the exception during your precepting experience. During any down time that you have, take the time to teach what you know. Pick even just one of your patients and thoroughly go through their history, what nursing interventions you are doing for them, what medications they are taking and why, and lab values that you should be looking out for. In the ICU, I always try to take a little time and walk my nursing orientee around to different ventilators and go through all the settings with them. Practice and repetition make perfect!
2. Ask for a specific assignment before your shift. Once you know the skills of your nursing orientee, call a few hours before (if appropriate) and talk with the charge nurse about your nursing orientee. Discuss the types of patients that would help your orientee to grow in their nursing skill set. At my hospital, there is a nursing orientation packet that goes through all of the types of patients and tasks that need to be addressed during orientation.
3. Give the nurse an opportunity to breath and make non-important mistakes. At a certain point during orientation, it is important to start giving your nursing orientee the ability to create their own routine. Double check what the nursing orientee is doing behind the scenes rather than checking everything with them. Be sure that you are not putting the patient in any imminent danger (of course!), but allow the nursing orientee to have the time to create their own habits (and they will be slow at first!). By the end of orientation, they should only be coming to you with questions that might come up. They should be able to manage their own patient load.
4. Praise them for what they do well. It is a scary thing to start your first job. As a preceptor, we have all been in that position before. Give compliments on what the nursing orientee is successful at. You can set constructive goals at the beginning of your shift to help focus the nursing orientee on what skills they need to develop. At the end of the shift, give praise where it is due. They will have a much better experience on orientation to your unit and, hopefully, will want to stay there long-term as a result.
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