Each year, Cleveland Clinic’s Zielony Nursing Institute onboards more than 1,000 new caregivers. They work alongside preceptors during their orientation period who can help them acclimate to the culture of Cleveland Clinic and their unit, as well as learn about the patient population, interdisciplinary team and myriad tasks associated with their particular unit.
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“When somebody new joins a unit, they have so much ahead of them to learn,” says Kathryn Stuck Boyd, MSN, RN-BC, a Nursing Education Manager who oversees onboarding. “The preceptor is the key person who guides them on what it means to become a Cleveland Clinic nurse. That mentorship from our preceptors to new caregivers has a lasting impact for years.”
The impact of successful preceptor/caregiver relationships can be seen throughout Cleveland Clinic. One shining example is the pairing of Kayla Schmidt, BSN, RN, who joined a cardiovascular step-down unit in August 2017, with Kathy Sheridan, RN, a long-time clinical nurse on the unit.
Nursing student paired with a long-time nurse
Schmidt first teamed with Sheridan in the spring of 2017 during her practicum rotation for Ursuline College. Sheridan served as Schmidt’s primary preceptor while the nursing student obtained 216 clinical hours in the cardiovascular step-down unit.
“Kathy pushed and encouraged me to think critically on a daily basis. I was able to enhance my prioritization and assessment skills, while developing time management skills,” says Schmidt. “Kathy helped me transition to clinical practice by encouraging me to gain confidence in myself, not be afraid to ask questions and always utilize my resources.”new
One area where Sheridan was particularly helpful was patient reporting. “As a nursing student, giving or receiving report on a patient can be overwhelming,” recalls Schmidt. “Are you giving a good report to the oncoming nurse? Are you asking the correct questions from the ICU nurse?” Sheridan developed a system to help Schmidt feel more comfortable with the task.
When the ICU called for a report, Schmidt informed them she would call back in 10 minutes. During that time, she would review the patient’s chart, jotting down any important questions she might have. Then Sheridan and Schmidt called the ICU on speaker phone, and Schmidt would report on the patient. “This made me feel comfortable because Kathy listened to me report and guided me to ask any other pertinent questions,” says Schmidt.
Relationship continues when new grad joins the unit
When Schmidt graduated from Ursuline College in May 2017, she had offers to join several units within the Cleveland Clinic healthcare system – a medical ICU at main campus, the emergency department at one of the hospitals, and the cardiovascular step-down unit where she had done her practicum rotation. She chose the latter solely based on her precepting experience.
“Even as a student, I felt part of the team. I built relationships with other nurses and healthcare providers. Over time, I grew clinically and began to anticipate complications and orders,” says Schmidt. “After my practicum, I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
When Schmidt joined the cardiovascular step-down unit as a clinical nurse, she requested Sheridan as her preceptor. Sheridan worked alongside the new nurse for approximately 10 weeks. “She was a great resource to have during this important transition to my new career as a nurse,” says Schmidt.
Preceptors are carefully selected and trained
Part of the reason that preceptor relationships like the one between Schmidt and Sheridan are so fruitful is because of the nursing institute’s commitment to the program, which emphasizes experiential learning. “The program covers various aspects of patient care, allowing the new caregiver to work through those experiences with the preceptor’s guidance,” says Boyd.
The Zielony Institute has thousands of preceptors, who are recommended by nurse managers and other nurse leaders. Preceptors are unit-based nurses who are experts on their units and embrace the Cleveland Clinic philosophy of lifelong learning. Before being paired with nursing students or new caregivers, they attend a preceptor class focused on communication strategies. They learn how to provide caregivers the necessary tools to succeed, while evaluating their progress.
Preceptors often get as much out of the relationship as the new nurses they mentor. Sheridan has precepted many caregivers during the past 25 years. “I have a passion for teaching young nurses and providing them with resources to improve their practice,” she says. “I also care about the innovation that new nurses bring to our units.”
The precepting program benefits everyone. “Our preceptors put their heart and soul into what they do,” says Boyd. “They demonstrate passion for nursing excellence, and they are so appreciated by our caregivers, nursing leadership and patients.”