A group of new graduate nurses were recently hired at my facility. How do I ensure that I am picking competent nurses who will properly precept and mentor them?

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Getting the right people is not an easy task. When precepting new employees, new- graduate nurses, or student nurses, the preceptee selection has been done. However, selecting preceptors is a more complicated process. Selection criteria revolve around human and material resources available, numbers and positions of preceptees, and expected outcomes. Finding preceptors who will help you achieve your goals in the precepting relationship includes careful consideration of the following:

• First, see whether there are any seasoned nurses already engaged in precepting students and new employees on their units. Is there someone in your organization who recommends training to new nurses, new- graduate nurses, or students; gives them increasingly challenging assignments; encourages them; and takes an interest in their career progress? That person is already an informal preceptor.

• Recruit preceptors outside the chain of command. Supervisors and nurse managers can make good preceptors. However, there can also be conflicts between the precepting and supervisory roles, particularly if the nurse leader is also the preceptorship coordinator.

• Determine the specific goals to be achieved through preceptorships and select nurse preceptors who can help preceptees reach their goals. For example, although licensed professional nurses may coach orientees in tasks or provide directions, they cannot precept registered nurses (RN) in their professional duties (i.e., assessments, leadership, or interprofessional responsibilities).

• Keep the precepting relationship cordial and professional. Some preceptees with serious personal problems may require a counselor, not a preceptor. A preceptor should be compassionate but never become an emotional or spiritual crutch for orientees.

Diane Swihart, PhD, DMin, MSN, CS, RN-BC

(September 2010)