preceptor stories

Specialties Operating Room


Dear OR nurses,

I'm currently working on my masters thesis about "eating our young" in OR nursing. There is a lack of information regarding this topic. I would appreciate hearing about the preceptors you hated as well as the preceptors you admired. I will try to catorgorize the experiences into usuable data. Thank you for your participation.


the facilitator


12 Posts

I have been an OR nurse for 10years,which isnt long for most.I have been a traveling nurse for 5years.In my experience with alot of nurses in the OR,they are jaded and burned out and just dont want to take the time to train new nurse.The mean age of the OR nurse is in the 40's.Alot of new nurses are discourged to go into the OR because of the things they hear.I went into the OR right out of school and had a good six months orientation before I was "on my own" and then it was a year before that "light went on" It is a stressfull place to work but it has alot of rewards also.You are pushed to your limits not only by the surgeons but by your co-workers.They do eat there young. You cant be weak at the knees and survive in the OR. You have to be confident and be willing to learn quickly and to jump in and do the job. Ask alot of questions and pay attention. MY preceptor in my early days once told me,and I will never forget this,"If your going to do something,do it right the first time so someone else doesnt have to come behind you and do it again" That has stuck with me and has made me ask if I dont know and to do my job to the best of my ability and not to focus on the negative from other nurses who are not happy in there jobs. Good luck on your thesis.Doing a thesis is one of the things that is keeping me from getting my masters..funny huh??haha...


10 Posts

I am an OR educator and work closely with the new nurses whether they are brand new nurses or nurses that have decided to change areas.

Not everyone is meant to be a preceptor.

Sometimes I wonder if the nurses don't feel threatened.

With the nursing shortage you would think they would welcome to staff with open arms and help get them trained and oriented but instead they chew them up and spit them out.

Sometimes I think it is a test of trust and will they be able to handle the work and pressure.

I think this will be an ongoing struggle and could be up to management to nip it in the bud and not let the staff be so mean.

Some of the staff has gotten to where they don't want to train people because they figure they will leave shortly after they are trained to go onto greener pastures??????



17 Posts

Specializes in OR.

I agree that not everyone is cut out to be a preceptor.

I myself do not enjoy it as I feel that I am not a good teacher, although I am knowledgable. I have 10 years OR experience both in scubbing and circulating and I have had to precept RN's & CST's.

Another problem I have is when I have new nurses assigned to me who are almost finished their orientation.They do not want you to help them so they can get their speed up and want you to sit in the corner, I am not that kind of OR nurse I have to continually keep moving and even when I am free,feel I have to help someone get started.

However give me an enthusiastic nurse (or tech) and I will gladly teach them everything I know,but as my speciality is orthopedics some people have the attitude that they are going to hate it before they even try it,then precepting someone with that attitude is a chore.

G. n.

1 Post

My story about precepters tends to make my stomache hurt when I think about it. I wanted to be an OR nurse really, really bad. I transfered to the OR a few months ago. I had a different precepter everytime that I turned around. Of course every thing the last precepter taught me was wrong and I had to learn the new precepters way's. When ever I brought up that what they were doing either wasn't the way pollicy stated it should be or that there was a new standard for that perticular thing, I was met with resistance, and had a few precepters go and complain over issues that I felt they should have been teaching me about. There was even stories that there seemed to have only a grain of truth to them. I was even met in the hallway one day with the greeting of what are you doing hear? I heard you were on the way out. I left that hospital not sure of my trainning, my self esteme in the toilet. I had to take time off to recover from a nonrelated injury, tomorrow I start working in a new hospital and hopefully with nurses who can teach in positive feed back and not continual critticism.


458 Posts

I'm so sad for you. That is definately not the way all OR's are. Please, please don't give up on the OR......really, it's a fun place to work. Is there a Nurse Educator at the new place you're going?? Hopefully you've told him/her of your previous situation. I would hope the training would be more structured there.

I hope the new preceptors will take you under their wing, as they should. Some people just don't have any tact at all do they?? Can't believe someone would say they thought you were on your way out!!!

Just don't give up.


What area did you transfer from?


73 Posts

I can speak from personal experience that in the Army we go through a 120 day training course to learn to work in the O.R. and then get between 30-60 days orientation on sitefollowing that training. Some preceptors are better than others, but you can learn something from everyone, even if all you learn is "God, I hope I never start acting like that!" As far as what G.N. said about rotating preceptors, there is an advantage to that because you can learn many ways of doing the same thing and choose what works best for you. I am where I am today in large part because I learned a lot of what NOT to do by watching preceptors. Certainly all nurses can eat their young, but only if the young crawl onto the plate and hold still while being eaten. Stand up for yourselves, young'ns! Same goes for students too. Or at least if you're going to be eaten have the decency to bring a cup of coffee to wash down. Most of us perioperative nurses like to drink coffee.;)


143 Posts

Specializes in OR.

I was a new grad May, 2002. Jumped into a periop nurse training program right after graduation and passing boards. I knew the OR was where I wanted to be the first time I ever stepped foot into one. Unfortunatly, there have been both good and some very disturbing and bad experiences. The good always makes you feel as though you made the right decision and are so glad that you are in the OR. But the bad... well, this is actually an ongoing problem that I just am not able to see a light at the end of the tunnel (so to speak). I sucessfully rotated through the rotations of General, Gyn, eyes, some vascular, and ortho, but when going through ent, the person I was to be precepted by seemed so much more interested in socializing with the doc's than teaching me anything. Sad to say I was "too quiet" that day because I was unfamiliar with the case, surgeon, equiptment and was trying to figure things out for myself. The next day I was called into the office because my preceptor wrote me up for being "lazy, having a hostile attitude, not doing was she asked, etc" which was all completely not true. The sad thing is, as a fairly new nurse in the OR, there are expectations of you to know how to deal with certain strong personalities automatically. The last i checked, this type of experience is not taught in Nursing school. So after having been in the OR for almost a year, and having done well in all the other areas, I find myself being told that I "just might not be cut out for OR nursing". Personally, the stories of nurses eating their young, is true. Unfortunatly, when asked for help and support, there seems to be none available to me. I am very frustrated, feel as though I have been thrown to the wolves and am a bit worried that certain indivudals are trying to show me the door.:zzzzz :o


1,260 Posts

Specializes in O.R., ED, M/S.

I sometimes, am not the best teacher, but if you show enthusiasm and a true willingness to learn I will bend over backwards to teach you everything I know about OR nursing. I have 27 years in the OR and would rather retire than do anything else. It is true that some nurses would rather play around with the docs than teach and they would rather see you trip over yourself than help you up. I would rather not teach because over the years I have tried and some newbies have said that my ways were "old fashion" and really not always exceptable. I teach in a laid back approach and if it takes 2 months, 3 months or more for you to get proficient in something thats OK. I believe that a slow approach is better because why scare the beejeebers out of you before you get started. This makes no sense what so ever. I think some nurses think they only have a few years left before they retire so why put forth an effort. I plan to work 10-15 years more ( I am 50!) so I want to train the best for the future. I just hate to see the meaness and it should stop. There is no place in the OR for crabby, old OR nurses and maybe they should retire real early. Good luck with your OR thesis. Mike

TracyB,RN, RN

646 Posts

Specializes in jack of all trades, master of none.

I so deeply miss being in the OR. However, I picked the WRONG place to go. I was constantly being told that I was "a natural." I thought that I would be able to stick it out. BUT, then there were the OR nurses from hell. I had been in nursing for 11 years, & always knew that OR was a different world. WOW!!! Talk about back-stabbing, manipulating people. It was the worst group of nurses I had ever worked with, minus a handful of really great, helpful nurses.It probably didn't help that I went to a Level 1 trauma, university setting. The manager was HORRIBLE. The scheduling was just as bad. Alot of the nurses spoke another language & you can just "tell" when people were talking about you, the whispers, the dirty looks, people saying, you're good, but you're not that good. It was like they were intimidated by nurses who were new to the place, and really wanted to learn the right way to do things. There were 9 people in my orientation group. Last I heard, only 3 were left. That was pretty typical of the newbies before & after my group. Nobody wants to stay in a hostile environment. It was a stressful place to be. Had headaches every day. Preceptors who had NO business being preceptors. . . would say how tired they were of always precepting, then in the same breath c/o how nobosy ever stays. I can understand that would be frustrating, always teaching & having people leave. . .but come on. IF you treat people like crap, they aren't going to stay.

renerian, BSN, RN

5,693 Posts

Specializes in MS Home Health.

Believe it or not on the eval my preceptor did on me as a new grad she said I was to nice to helpful as well. Wow forgive me for being part of the team LOL.

She was always nasty to me. After my orientation and I was on my own she was picking and picking at me endlessly. Finally I just pulled her to the side and told her how I felt. Big smile. She left me alone after that.



285 Posts

Well i realize this post began a while ago, but I have a preceptor story that i am going through with right now. I have a preceptor now (first week in OR) that has been so disrespectful and rude to me. She has told me not to make her look bad in front of people and has lowered my self esteem so bad, that i went home crying the first day feeling hopeless. But on the good side, another RN, felt so bad for me and kept apoligizing that I had to deal with her. Also my nurse manager was extremely consoling, which lets me know that people really do care.

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