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Starting a new travel nursing assignment can be intimidating. After all, travelers are expected to learn everything they need to know to be a successful nurse in a new facility – with all new staff, policies and procedures – in a matter of hours. Luckily, travel nurses are provided with a preceptor to guide them through orientation and set them up for success on an assignment. Below are some of the most important things to expect from your preceptor.
Preceptors are staff nurses who have received special training on the hospital’s orientation process and effective ways to guide new nurses through it. Nurses who make the best candidates to be preceptors are those who exhibit extreme competency on the floor. Preceptors receive one week of special training to prepare them to assist new nurses in learning things like locations of important areas of the hospital, completing computer charting, and finding phone numbers, internal documents and other resources.
When a travel nurse receives their new patient load, the preceptor will be assigned to follow them throughout their shift, making sure they have all the information and resources they need. The two nurses work side-by-side, always making sure they provide high-quality, safe patient care. The preceptor is responsible for evaluating the traveler’s competency and making sure they are prepared to do the job on their own.
How long you spend with your preceptor will vary from assignment to assignment. While a new staff nurse may need as long as 1 week with a preceptor, travel nurses are expected to hit the ground running with as little training as possible. So, your time with a preceptor may vary from several hours to a few shifts.
Wherever you go, always ask for at least one shift, but don’t expect to ever receive more than three shifts. For new travelers, it is advisable to get as much preceptorship and orientation as possible. For more seasoned travelers, this may not be necessary, and the preceptor will be able to gauge the traveler’s readiness. Your preceptor will help you with vital skills and information, such as setting goals for your assignment, implementing a learning plan, teaching time management, and other adjustments to the new facility. A good preceptor will document a traveler’s clinical progress along the way.
Because preceptors have already been recognized for their skills as floor nurses and have volunteered to take on this extra responsibility, they have already demonstrated their high levels of competency. These nurses are invested in the success of the travelers they train, making it unlikely that you will receive an unqualified preceptor. It’s always important to stay open and flexible during the orientation process and prepare yourself to learn new skills. The worst thing a traveler can tell a preceptor is, “That’s not how they did it where I came from.” While that may very well be the case, it’s important to follow the new facility’s procedures.
If the preceptor truly does lack adequate teaching skills or knowledge, let your agency know that the facility’s orientation process has left you feeling unprepared. As a brand new employee, it will only make a traveler look bad to begin making complaints. Alert your recruiter, and your travel agency can contact the facility to make the necessary arrangements for additional orientation.
Above all, stay calm.
When working with a preceptor during any orientation or training, just remember to stay calm. Work to establish a relationship with your preceptor and always remain professional. Though being new to facility can be scary, your preceptor will help guide you to all the information you need to have a great assignment.