The Preceptor’s Role and Responsibilities to New Nurses

Everybody knows that nurses have a lot of responsibility, but they are also never finished with their education, regardless of age or how long they have been in the nursing field. Don’t feel nervous about earning your accelerated nursing degree, because you are never alone in the process.

Even after you have graduated, you will continue to learn something new about nursing every day that you work. In those first couple of weeks of your first job, you will work with a nurse preceptor, who will help shape you into a great nurse.

Our nurse blogger offers some insight to a preceptor’s role and responsibilities, as well as some advice for working with your future preceptor.


Being a preceptor to a newly graduated nurse (for the rest of this blog we’ll be using the phrase ‘new grad’…that’s what every nurse is referred to their first year as a nurse. Yay!) is a privilege to a nurse with some experience under his/her belt. The relationship is intended to be one that encourages confidence in the new grad and also facilitates independence in his or her nursing practice.

Who is the Preceptor?

The preceptor is a nurse that has experience and a high knowledge in the area in which she works. It’s not the best practice to have someone with less than two years of experience leading another nurse…less than two years isn’t enough time to master your craft and mold a fresh, young mind. So keeping that in mind, the preceptor is often times a nurse that loves to teach, because if you haven’t figured it out now, you learn more the first week you are a nurse than you will all of nursing school. Lots of questions to be asked with a lot of good answers.

Open Communication

One important quality that make a good precepting relationship from both the new grad and the preceptor is open communication. New grads, please don’t just smile and nod. If you have no idea what it means when radiology calls to tell you that the tip of the picc line is the SVC, say so! You’re impressing exactly zero people by pretending to know something with the “I’ll Google it later” mentality. That’s what your preceptor is there for. And the same conversation is to be had with the preceptor. It’s to be said “nurses eat their young” and that is applicable here. Don’t bite your new grads head off when she asks you a question. How would they know? They’ve been a nurse for 15 minutes! Give them a break. New nurses need to feel welcome, wanted and needed. And it’s your responsibility to allow this to happen.

The Preceptor’s Role

A new grad needs to look up to, admire and even emulate their preceptor. They need to trust that what they’re saying stays between them (within reason. If your new grad is all “I like to skim a little from the top” when they pull medications out, you need to report that to someone higher in the pay scale) and they need to see you as a respected, knowledgeable nurse. A new grad is nervous. They’re nervous of all the things they don’t know, they’re nervous of being in a situation where they don’t know what to do, they’re just nervous! Help em out! Be good to them! Be kind to them. The same for new grads. Most places aren’t paying your preceptor anything extra to teach you all their worldly nursing knowledge. The pace in which you teach is obviously slower than their typical day (imagine talking out loud every step for 12 hours), so be good to your preceptor too.

“Do What I Do”

I tell my new grads to emulate me. What I mean by that is watch what I do and try to imitate that. Imitate my confidence when I’m speaking to a physician. Imitate my passion when caring for the sick. Imitate my calmness when in a crisis. Imitate my reassuring words as I speak to a family. Leading by example is the best way to be a preceptor. Remember that your preceptor isn’t going to know everything. The best preceptors are the ones who acknowledge “I don’t know the answer, but let me find someone who does.” And new grads, remember to emulate that later in your nursing career as well.

A Real Relationship

A precepting relationship is special. I have personally maintained long friendships with those that have precepted me, as well as those new grads who aren’t so no grad-y anymore. It’s a special thing to go to work week after week and know you’ll be working right alongside someone that is eager to learn and grow in the nursing profession.

I would recommend that if you aren’t off-the-bat in sync with the person precepting you, acknowledge it and talk to your preceptor. If it’s not working out, there’s always an alternative option. Your manager can put you with someone else or your preceptor can try to fix the problem. I tell people “there’s an answer to every problem” But communication is key in having a successful relationship with your preceptor, and making you a strong nurse. .

Feeling more confident about a career as a nurse? Contact us today to speak to an advisor and get information on earning your second bachelor’s degree with a major in nursing in just 16 months from Utica College. 

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