Preceptor Resistance in Nursing School
I remember walking into clinical one morning excited to take my own patients, perform assessments, administer meds, start IVs, and everything else that comes with being a nursing student. It had taken me the entire night before to calm my nerves and convince myself (for the one-thousandth time since getting into nursing school) that I was cut out to be a nurse and rock this semester's clinical. Stethoscope in hand, I turned the corner to head to the nurse's station for my assignment, and as soon as my nurse saw me, I heard her say, "Ugh, I do not want a student today," as she walked off and rolled her eyes, all without as much as a hello. We had already been working together for two days and had gotten along pretty well, so I was surprised at her response as I arrived at the unit. But then again, it wasn't the first time something like this had happened to me. We barely had three days on the labor and delivery unit during our maternity rotation because the nurses told our college they did not want to work with students. It was frustrating, to say the least, especially if you're experiencing this kind of push-back in an area you one day hope to specialize in. The sad part is, this isn't an uncommon experience. Many nursing students experience this kind of resistance during clinical throughout their program.
To an extent, we can understand why a nurse might not want to take on nursing students. Staffing shortages and increased patient-nurse ratios result in an increased workload and stress in their personal lives. My nurse had been so kind and encouraging during our first few days together, so I brushed her response off, convincing myself that she might just be having an off day. But if you're feeling frustrated, that's also a valid response. We get so few days of hands-on experience during nursing school, and that experience is what you take with you to your first job as a new grad. You are not wrong for feeling upset. As students, we spend thousands of dollars to get an education to feel prepared when we enter the workforce. We want to be equipped with the knowledge and skillset to make us successful in practice.
So what's my advice when dealing with a situation like this? Try your best not to take it to heart. I know, easier said than done. But remember that your clinical experience is what you make it. Go in with a positive attitude and expect a positive outcome. When you encounter someone at the hospital who isn't thrilled to have a student, work your hardest to show them just how valuable a resource you are and know that you have unlimited resources at your fingertips. Reach out to other nurses or leadership to make the most of your education and experience at your clinical site. But if you feel like it's not a match between you and your preceptor, let your clinical instructor know. Keep an open line of communication so your instructor can place you with someone who fits your learning style and someone who is better equipped to provide the teaching you need. Don't think that because this is something that many student nurses deal with, it's 'normal.' Don't waste your or your educators' time if you know the relationship isn't working.
You can be a great nurse, so make sure you allow yourself to do just that!
Written by: Mary Vadenais