From the staff development bookshelf: Preceptors in staff development

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, January 6, 2012

Some staff development colleagues automatically assume that all staff development personnel make good preceptors and mentors. After all, don’t we plan and implement preceptor and mentor programs for the clinical staff? Don’t we make suggestions regarding who will be a good clinical preceptor and who will not? If we plan and implement preceptor and mentor programs shouldn’t we also be able to precept and mentor members of our own specialty? Sadly, the answer to these questions is “no.”

Because we have knowledge doesn’t mean we also apply that knowledge. If that were the case it would mean that there would be, for example, no medication errors, because most nurses know the five rights of medication administration. It would mean that all preceptors are supportive of those whom they precept and all new employees successfully master those competencies necessary to complete orientation. It would mean that all mentors enjoy mentoring less experienced colleagues. And yet we know that some preceptors actually ridicule their preceptees and participate in bullying new nurses. Do they know better? Of course they do. But it continues to happen!

Likewise, just because nursing professional development (NPD) specialists know what preceptors should do and how mentors should behave doesn’t mean that they are effective in either role.
Preceptors may antagonize those they precept for a variety of reasons. They may be bored, resentful, or even jealous of new employees. Mentors may be fearful that those they mentor may surpass them in skill and/or receive more recognition from the professional community.

Those who precept others must have more experience than those they are precepting. Don’t assign an advanced beginner with minimal experience to precept another advanced beginner. A preceptor must have the knowledge to be able to teach and facilitate the orientee. A preceptor must have more knowledge and expertise than whomever she or he is precepting.

Source: Book excerpt adapted from Professional Growth in Staff Development by Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN

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