Humboldt General Hospital Honors On-The-Job Trainers for Guidance, Instruction

They come from varied backgrounds, educational levels, cultures and even areas of the country, but Humboldt General Hospital’s preceptors have one thing in common: they stand ready to help bring the next tier of staff members forward.

Preceptors are on-the-job trainers who take a new or transitioning employee under their wing and provide guidance and instruction.

Last month, 15 preceptors were honored during a luncheon where they were also presented with a “preceptor pin.”

“We want them to know they are appreciated,” said HGH Nurse Educator Tina Maestrejuan who heads up the program. “Our preceptor program has made all the difference in how we prepare employees for their jobs.”

The preceptor program is largely geared toward nursing, although surgery techs have been the most recent preceptors to share their expertise.

In their role, the experienced employees model professional behavior and give timely and appropriate feedback to their students, especially where patient care is concerned.

There is no set time for the instruction, says Maestrejuan, but new hires are on probation for 90 days, so preceptors should have a good idea by then if an employee is going to make it on his or her own.

Once the preceptor process is finished, participants move into more of a mentoring relationship where they can still provide guidance—but at more of a distance.

Five years ago, HGH’s nursing leadership introduced the preceptor program as a way to provide more specialized instruction.

Since that time, more than a dozen nurses have graduated from the program and the hospital’s preceptor roster has grown to include the surgery, emergency, acute, obstetrics and long-term care departments.

“It really gives our staff a chance to bridge the gap between the classroom and the clinical area,” says Maestrejuan.

But it doesn't come without personal sacrifice.

“We do it for the love of doing it,” said Robyn Dunckhorst, an ER nurse. “We have to, because we have to do all our own work and train this other person at the same time.”

Each preceptor must complete an online preceptor course. Additionally, the preceptor group meets once a month to go over the program, including the difficult process of evaluating another person, as well as help establish weekly goals for each “student” to meet.

Preceptors do not receive additional pay for their instruction, but Kat Ourada, an Acute care nurse, sees it as a way to give back to her profession.

“We like what we do,” she said, “so we like being able to pass that on to the learner.”

Currently, Maestrejuan, Dunckhorst, Ourada, Summer Pollo, Ashley Sage, Wally Diamond, Hannah Kohler, Candice Hotz, Bertha Higbee, Rachel Bourbon, Diane Nevis, Mary Schlotzhauer and Lorene Hall are nurse preceptors at the hospital, while Juan Pederson precepts in the OR.

Maestrejuan said HGH continues to look for more medical professionals who are willing to share their expertise

“We would love more preceptors,” she said. “It's a tough job and you're constantly teaching, working and evaluating someone else. It takes a lot of time to do it.”

Even so, Maestrejuan said the end result can be completely gratifying.

“Working in a hospital environment can be intimidating,” she said, “but when you can take this new person and ease them into a new situation and help them be comfortable, it's great.”

She added, “When you give them that confidence, it translates into better patient care.”