When I was first approached about the opportunity to precept a new graduate nurse, I was hesitant.
Although I had trained experienced nurses, I was nervous about the challenges I might encounter in training a new graduate in a fast-paced environment. Unlike inpatient nursing where nurses have a set patient assignment for the day (which is extremely busy in its own way), the outpatient chemotherapy infusion environment is a different kind of busy. Nurses may be assigned three to four infusion chairs for the day, but as soon as one patient’s treatment is complete, the room is cleaned and a new patient sits down within five minutes. With this in mind, I was unsure of how I would be able to balance teaching a new nurse while taking care of my usual patient assignments.
The Reward of Being a Preceptor
But I’m so glad I accepted the role: my positive experience of transitioning from staff nurse to preceptor has helped me become a better nurse. The continuous support of our nursing leadership team and specifically our nurse educator were essential to our collective success. We held weekly meetings with the nurse educator and clinical coordinator, and my assignment was based on Shirley’s learning needs as a new graduate nurse. Shirley and I first worked together for three consecutive shifts. On her fourth shift, she was cross-trained in various oncology and non-oncology units (radiation oncology, emergency department, and the inpatient bone marrow transplant unit). Those experiences were a good learning opportunity for her and facilitated discussions about her application of her new skills to practice.
One of the most important lessons I shared was the importance of communication and patient safety in an environment where we are frequently administering high-risk medications such as blood products, chemotherapy, biotherapy, and clinical research drugs. I encouraged Shirley to always ask questions and to never hesitate to ask for help. The infusion nursing team works exceptionally well together, and we always support one another. Our success in training a new nurse is a shared success, largely dependent on our community of oncology nurses. It truly takes a village to raise an oncology nurse!