How to Be Successful with Your Preceptor

Starting something new is not always easy. This is especially true when you embark on a new nursing adventure whether it be with a new specialty or new setting or an educational endeavor. Often times, this includes mentorship from a preceptor who is basically there to make sure you don’t kill someone. With healthcare internship programs becoming more and more popular, it is important that you know how to make these relationships work. The key is to find a way to get along with that person and get as much as you can out of the experience in terms of learning. Super easy right? Not always! With most preceptors being someone you have never met and also often randomly assigned to you, there is no guarantee that you’re going to automatically jive. So how do you find a way to forge a successful relationship?

Ensure all expectations and needs are communicated up front.

The first step in any mentoring or preceptorship should be to first figure out what both of you need from the relationship. The preceptor and preceptee should be fully aware of each other’s backgrounds and knowledge base. Make sure your preceptor knows what you are coming into the preceptorship already understanding or what you already have knowledge of. There should be an up front discussion in the beginning about what you both are hoping to get from the experiences you’ll have together. The preceptor should also be sure you know what they expect of you. This can be anything from how you’ll go into a room and assess patients together to how many patients you’ll be taking on your own and when. Going into the mentorship without knowing these expectations on either side is setting yourselves up for failure.

Figure out how you’ll communicate and what your style of communication is.

This is incredibly important for any professional relationship! Don’t wait until you’re in a bind and trying to contact your preceptor emergently on Facebook, not sure when they’ll see it. Establish up front how they expect you to communicate with them whether it be via cell phone, email, etc., and get that information! You’ll thank yourself later and it’ll save you a lot of problems.

Don’t hesitate to address a problem when it comes up and encourage them to do the same.

In any learning environment, nobody is going to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. Expect there to be some wrinkles that need to be ironed out and times when something happens and needs to be discussed. That’s just learning and doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong! However, these times need to be handled in a healthy way that is conducive not only to your professional relationship, but your overall learning and growth. When something happens that you don’t understand or that makes you uneasy or upset, DO NOT hold it in and ignore it happened! Discuss it openly with your preceptor or mentor in a way that best suits both of your styles of communication. Having an open communication and clearing the air helps to keep things moving and will only assist in giving you a smooth experience that works well for everyone.

DO NOT go into it with arrogance and/or expecting to take nothing away from the experience.

This is a big one. One of the biggest peeves for any experienced nurse is getting some A-hole who has some experience somewhere else, who thinks they know everything and makes that clear to everyone around them. We have all met a person like that (and probably come off that way unintentionally!). It’s common for people to want to overcompensate and impress whoever is mentoring or precepting them. However, try the best you can not to do this. Have confidence that you got into whatever position you are training for because you have earned it and let that be enough. People will be much happier helping with your learning experiences if you go into it openly and not throwing in their face whatever experiences or knowledge you have. Not to mention, you’re training for a reason, and anyone in nursing should be able to tell you that you learn something new every day. No matter how experienced you think you are, try and keep a level head and the ego at bay.

Check in with your preceptor and education team regularly.

This one helps if you have a long mentorship program like the one I went through. I went through a 12 week transition program for experienced nurses wishing to go to the ED from an inpatient unit. We also had 4 weeks of education included before starting the clinical training. That long period meant lots of checking in with the education team and figuring out what how things are going. Make sure everyone is on the same page and that you’re working hard on your weaknesses or areas needing improvement. You should also be told what your strengths are and what you’re doing well! Let the education team and/or your preceptor know what you need more help with. You should also tell them if you feel you need more time when your time is coming to a close. Safety is key, even if it means we aren’t all ready to be on our own in the cookie cutter amount of time allotted.

Realize when it’s just not working out and let someone know!

Unfortunately, we may have all had some professional relationships that just aren’t going to blossom and flourish. The same may happen at some point with a preceptor. Honesty is always the best policy. Nobody is going to benefit from a nasty, sour relationship filled with tension or animosity. We all know that nursing is full of women and sometimes, women don’t get along with each other. (Shocker, right?!) So if you’ve both done your best and it’s just NOT working out, let someone know. Don’t wait until time is up and it’s too late, and you’re on your own without knowing everything you should’ve learned in your training time. Some people just don’t jive, and that’s totally okay.

What suggestions do you have for a successful preceptor/preceptee relationship?

Much love,

Just Ask the Nurse

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When Things Don’t Go Right

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I’ve always been someone who needs to have a plan for my life. I enjoy being spontaneous day-to-day, but in the big picture, I always have a plan for how I want things to go. Having goals set in place has always given me something to work toward. A way to propel myself forward in really shitty times, and I’ve had several of them in my life that I, at times, thought I would not be able to overcome. Somehow I got through them and things always worked out one way or another. Recently, life has felt kind of topsy turvy for me and it’s had me thinking about when things don’t go right.

There have been times where nothing has gone the way I wanted or planned for it to go. Every step in the road to wherever I wanted to go had some bump or hurdle for me to overcome, and it was exhausting. There were days when I would wake up and not want to move from my bed, fully ready to give up and reformulate my plan for something else – something easier. Thankfully, the people in my life have never accepted those days or times as my defining moments, and they never allowed me to give up.

Recently, there have been more obstacles and I’ve had to make adjustments to my life and the road that will lead me to where I want to be. It felt like the last straw that I could handle on this super long journey I’ve been on. I was so ready to give up on my dreams and just stop where I’m at. I’ve learned some things though in this short 26 year span of life though that helped me this go around.

For one thing, a person is not defined by the obstacles they face, but by the way they face them. I have always loved the quote about fearing the person who looks into fire and smiles (okay maybe not someone who is looking at a house fire like a total nut case smiling, that ain’t cool) because I kind of identify with that. Anyone who has trudged through miles of metaphorical shit in their life probably feels that way. I don’t think a successful life is for the faint of heart. Success is what comes with time, hard work, energy, patience, and sometimes blood/sweat/tears. If everyone gave up every time their plans or ideas went awry, nothing would ever get accomplished. I’m also a firm believer that there is something positive or a lesson of some sort in every situation. We may not always see it in the moments where we are really in pain what those takeaways might be, but they always have a way of showing themselves in the end (and if they haven’t, maybe it’s not the end!). Finally, this quote:

“It won’t always be like this.”

-My poor momma who has had to tell me this at least 9,000 times

So in these moments where I feel fatigued, beaten, or just plain over it, what will I do? What should any of us do? We should persist. We should hold on to our dream, goal, plan, or idea and keep on fighting until we get where we want to go – no matter what. Until then, be strong.

Much love,

Just Ask the Nurse

Tips for Passing the NCLEX

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Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

FINALLY! You’re done with nursing school and getting ready for the dreaded NCLEX exam. Congratulations! Or maybe you’re still in school and you’re just looking ahead. Smart! All of us who have been there send our sympathy for the stress and hard work ahead, but you can get through it! I remember anxiously waiting for my authorization to test and wondering what the hell I should do next. I winged it and luckily made it! You’ll do awesome.

Recently, some of my favorite ED techs graduated from nursing school and began to take their tests, so there has been a lot of NCLEX chatter amongst us. That made me think about my own experiences and the things I needed to know before my test. So here are some tips I recommend for you before you go.

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Questions, questions, questions!

Focus on doing NCLEX questions instead of studying information by itself. When doing so, you’ll learn while also mastering the way these questions are presented and how you’re expected to answer correctly. Sometimes, you know the information but the question itself can trick you into getting it wrong. Training yourself to analyze the questions properly will help you pick the correct answers when the time comes. After all, “the answer is on the page”!

DON’T overdo it!

Studying? Good. Nonstop studying and all consumption of your life with NCLEX material? BAD!!! Give yourself the breaks you need to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. Sometimes you have to take a step away from your study area to go do something else for a few hours. Think about the time of day that you function best (for me, it’s night time) and take that time for the bulk of your studying. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep so your brain is ready for all that studying you’ll be doing.

DO take a prep course before taking the test! 

I took the Hurst Review’s in-person course and also utilized their online resources for the bulk of my studying. This was in 2015 and I’m sure a few things have changed since then, but I thoroughly enjoyed and took a lot of information away from the use of their materials. You can find them here! Honestly, there are a ton of review programs and systems out there and I think that many of them are both useful and successful for students. Just talk to your friends, preceptors, and other people who have taken NCLEX and see which ones they liked best. Your school and teaching staff undoubtedly have their own suggestions as well.

Plan out the night before you test and your actual test day.

Plan for a restful night before your take the NCLEX. Don’t overload yourself with stress and studying. You know your stuff and you have to have faith in yourself at this point. The night before I tested, I studied a little bit, went out and soaked in the hot tub (I had to drive several hours away and opted to stay in a nice hotel room the night before), and went to bed early. I got up in the morning and had a healthy breakfast before heading off to my test. I felt nervous but at peace when I went. The same can’t be said for after the test, but I was good going in! Ha. Don’t stress yourself the f**k out with day-of-studying or go on an empty stomach – you’ll regret it! Anything you can do to reduce your stress, do it.

Basically, just take care of yourself, trust that you know what you’re going to need to know for the test, and that there will be some things you don’t have down to a complete science. But that’s okay! I have faith in you.

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What other suggestions have you heard or what advice would you add from your own experiences? I’d love to know how your test goes in the comments!