preceptorship and help with not acting too smart with the preceptor....?

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    I've got a question about preceptorship...

    I've often heard that a preceptor prefers a preceptee who "does not act like he or she knows everything."

    But... how do I strike the right balance? Should I ever act like I know nothing about a topic just to make the preceptor feel good?

    I would like to be myself by simply discussing topics when I know about them and asking questions about topics when I don't....
    However, I have studied many healthcare topics in depth (I am a science geek), which may be threatening to the preceptor... Still, I hate the idea that I have to pretend to know nothing about a topic... Won't "pretending" just make me look phony?

    I think I can balance this by acknowledging when I don't know something... Or trying to think of a question related to clinical practice that I do not know.... but I don't want to overdo this either!!


    Please help with some suggestions here! I messed up in a previous preceptorship (I think a lot of it had to do with a negative first impression), so further advice is needed
    Last edit by RNbethy on Feb 1, '13 : Reason: clarity
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  3. 5 Comments so far...

  4. 2
    You do exactly that...ask questions when you are unsure, and be confident when you know. Nothing is worse than a student that is unsure but pretends they know. And be able to handle criticism when you think you're doing well and they call you out. Even if you think you are right, they're the nurse, just go with it. I'm done with school now and working my first job, my preceptor loves when I can take the reins and go off on my own, but she doesn't crab at me when I ask a lot of questions either. The only way I could make her mad is if I did something I had no clue about without asking, or got mad at her for correcting me when I've goofed up.
    GrnTea and loriangel14 like this.
  5. 0
    Ask why she made a particular judgment call, how she chose the priorities in a situation. Ask her (and every nurse you interact with) why she does the kind of nursing she does and why she doesn't do another kind that she doesn't do. You'll learn a lot of interesting things that way and she'll see you want to learn them.
  6. 2
    Show that you realize that "book learning" isn't everything. Show respect for the "practical, 'how to'" expertise that your preceptor has to share with you. Show that respect regularly. If you don't actually have that respect, then you need to read up on the difference between theoretical learning and practical experience. Both are needed to become an expert -- but you only have 1 type of knowledge. You need actual experience to acquire the other type.

    For example, you can say something like ... "I've read a lot about this in books, but how does it play out in real life situations?" "When you encounter this in real life, how to prioritize your actions?" "How does this situation differ from other similar ones you have seen?" "What have you found works best in these situations?" etc. etc. These are questions of "how to" and not so much questions about the underlying theory or physiology (which is what you learn from books and classes).

    Think about other types of skilled activities. I can read about a sport all I want to ... but I won't be able to play the sport well until I actually practice it for a while. The same is true of learning to play a musical instrument, driving a car, performing surgery, or BEING A NURSE.

    I believe that in most cases, people deeply held beliefs and attitudes end up reflected in their behaviors and speech. So, don't try to fake that respect. If you don't have it, you need to work on developing it before you can hope to be successful in your preceptorships. So you may have to think deeply about the value of practical experience and do some reading on the true nature of expertise in a practice discipline before you can truly appreciate what your preceptorsh have to offer. But once you truly value what they have to offer, then that respect will be seen in your words and actions -- and help you establish a good relationship with them.
    GrnTea and Jill2Shay like this.
  7. 1
    Thank you for all of your comments. This advice was really helpful. I do value the practical experience thing because it is the only way one can actually make the theory useful.... Without practical skill, a nurse would not be a nurse.

    Thanks for all the great questions GrnTea! Some of them I didn't even think to ask, but they are actually quite interesting! I can't wait to ask some of them.
    GrnTea likes this.
  8. 0
    See, clinical is less about tasks than students think. We teach tasks (Foley, NG, suction, injections...) to lay people all the time, and they will be a lot less exciting after you've been at work for a few months.

    It's actually more about learning to be a nurse...and never confuse the tasks that nurses do with what nursing is and what nurses are.


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