How long should you be a nurse before becoming a preceptor?

Nurses General Nursing


How long should you be a nurse before becoming a preceptor? I work for a hospital that does the Versant Residency program for new grads. I am currently one of the "Versants" on my floor. At the end of July I will be at my 1 year of nursing, working independently without a preceptor for about 8 months. My manager and supervisors have asked me to become a Versant preceptor. The application for being a preceptor requires "1 year" experience.

With the Versant program, a new grad usually has 2-3 preceptors over an 18-week period. The first 6 weeks you're with a fairly new nurse who has been practicing for 1-2 years (this would be me), 2nd 6 weeks would be with a nurse with probably 2-5 years experience, and in the last stage of your residency you're with a "seasoned" nurse.

I have already taken the class and am now "certified" by my hospital to precept. I had a taste of what it might be like the other day when 2 charge nurses called in and I ended up precepting a new grad for one shift because her preceptor had to be Charge. We only had 4-5 patients, at one point only 3, and it just felt like a crazy day. And this nurse is at the end of her preceptorship so she's pretty much got stuff down and just needs a shadow. We had to stay a little late to chart some things and I asked her if she ever had to stay late before and she told me "no" this was the first time. I felt pretty defeated and now I'm feeling like I may not be ready to precept someone and am thinking about reconsidering it and speaking to my manager. I often ask so many questions still. The only upside is that as a preceptor the max patient load would be 4 patients at a time, and they wouldn't be allowed to assign us more than that.

Opinions on this subject?

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

It depends on how "ready" the nurse is -- and what type of person that nurse is asked to precept ... what exactly is expected of that preceptor ... how much support there is available for that preceptor.

For example, I think any nurse who is capable of taking her own assignment should be able to have a nursing student shadow her for a couple of hours. However, the be the primary preceptor for an experienced nurse switching jobs takes a much more advanced preceptor. There is not 1 solid number of months/years of experience that is best for all circumstances.

Specializes in Emergency, Telemetry, Transplant.

To echo the PP, it depends on the type of unit, the level of experience of the orientee (experienced RN vs. new RN vs. student), and the nature of the precepting (for example, shadowing vs. independent study for a SN vs. new to the unit). On a telemetry unit, I precepted a new to the unit nurse after I had approx. 1 year experience, and it went really well. In the ED, I had several years of experience before I precepted someone, and there were times I felt there were still a lot of things I had to learn. In the end it went well, but I'm glad I didn't precept there any sooner. I know nurses who have worked on a certain unit for a long time, but still aren't ready/appropriate for being a preceptor.

In other words, it is more complicated than just picking a certain amount of experience. You know you--be inwardly proud that they think you are ready to be a preceptor, but don't get into something that is way over your head. Again, only you can make that call.

Specializes in Nurse Leader specializing in Labor & Delivery.

I wouldn't consider you to be qualified based on the "minimum 1 year" because IMO, that minimum should be working independently, without a preceptor. So based on their requirements, you shouldn't be precepting for another 4 months. My personal opinion is that the minimum should be 2 years.

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